Is recycling cost effective? Does it even matter if it is or isn’t? Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung and the Macro Center for Political Economics organized a
roundtable discussion to present a new economic analysis on Wednesday which
looked at the effect of changes in waste treatment on employment.
analyzing the cost of interring waste in landfills and the number of jobs
employed in that traditional industry, the study’s authors, Roei Levy and Hagar
Tzameret Karcher, concluded that the recycling industry would add 5.44 jobs to
the market per 1,000 tons. The current industry employs 14.66 people per 1,000
tons, while recycling that amount would employ 20.1 people. Reaching a rate of
no interment of waste in landfills would generate 8,695 new jobs per 1,000
Furthermore, Levy explained during the roundtable at Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung’s offices in Herzliya Pituach, the Packaging Law would create
1,232 new jobs per 1,000 tons. The study’s researchers also calculated the
savings from recycling certain materials rather than interring them. Recycling
plastic and glass was not currently cost effective. Glass would result in a NIS
51 per ton loss, while plastic would cost NIS 268 more to recycle. However,
paper would yield a NIS 150 profit and metal a NIS 96 profit over
The overall average was a profit in favor of recycling of NIS
The study did not examine the costs of recycling organic
So, if recycling is cost effective overall, why aren’t the local
authorities jumping all over it? Levy theorized that a number of factors came
into play. First of all, he said, the one-time infrastructure cost to buy
receptacles, trucks and other equipment was very high. Second, local authorities
were not necessarily looking to maximize profit.
Turning to the market
itself, he noted that it was not a sophisticated one yet and the price of waste
has fluctuated wildly.
He also mentioned that there was a lack of end
solution installations within a reasonable distance.
Protection Ministry has allocated hundreds of millions of shekels to build those
installations over the next three years.
However, recycling would be an
industry with reliable employment for a number of reasons, according to Levy.
First of all, the jobs could not be shipped off overseas because waste would
always be within the state. It’s a labor intensive industry and, according to
the study, worthwhile from a financial perspective.
Finally, he argued
that recycling introduced a whole new value to a product beyond what was thought
to be the end of a product.
The study was presented in the presence of
Galit Cohen, deputy director-general for planning and sustainability at the
Environmental Protection Ministry as well as Galit Paltzor, head of the Economic
Branch at the ministry.
They welcomed the study but also had some
criticisms and suggestions for further improvement or further
“Abroad, they have numbers of how many people are employed in
green industries and how many have been laid off in polluting industries. In
Israel, there is no projection as to how many can be employed in environmental
fields. This study is critical to tell us how many jobs are available in the
field of waste treatment,” Cohen said at the beginning of the
“I’m happy we’re working together from the beginning with the
Histadrut. There is no choice but to become more environmentally
Some industries will have to be shut down, but the overall net
result will be positive in terms of jobs,” she added.
Paltzor said, “The
study is useful for going to the Knesset and others to show the economic value
of recycling. To show that the Packaging Law is not just a recycling revolution,
but also a job creator.
“However, the eventual goal is to encourage green
growth for its own sake,” she continued.
“There’s an argument to be made
that we might want to introduce legislation to encourage recycling – even if
it’s not cost effective [but purely for its environmental value.]” Nahum
Yehoshua of the economic branch of the ministry praised the study.
study gives us a tool to calculate the multiplication factor of jobs in the
It gives us a tool to figure out how many people could
be employed over and above the obvious,” he said.
His criticism of the
study was that it didn’t go far enough. By not taking into account all aspects
of waste treatment – collection, interment and recycling – for all types of
waste, the data was incomplete.
He also noted that there would still be
traditional jobs in the waste treatment sector that would not disappear. Garbage
men and trucks, for instance, would still be needed to transport the waste from
curbside to recycling plants. At the higher calculations of overall waste, he
acknowledged, there would be less to cart to landfills.