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.

After 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 tons.

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 interment.

The overall average was a profit in favor of recycling of NIS 5.80.

The study did not examine the costs of recycling organic matter.

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.

The Environmental 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 studies.

“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 meeting.

“I’m happy we’re working together from the beginning with the Histadrut. There is no choice but to become more environmentally conscious.

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.

“The study gives us a tool to calculate the multiplication factor of jobs in the recycling sector.

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.

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