Ecology is a subject that has been fast gaining interest in recent years. Prince Charles, who in January received the Global Environmental Citizen Award, said that society has a responsibility to future generations and that it must take care of our habitat.
The impact of climate changes on Earth's future concerns the entire world. The main subject for discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos was global warming. In the United States, the subject is on the public agenda, and presidential hopefuls in 2008, Republicans and Democrats alike, promise to deal with the issue.
As it turns out, waste, even if it is not incinerated, also constitutes a source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to data presented at Davos, waste produces 3 percent of greenhouse gases, essentially referring to methane, a flammable gas produced by the decomposition of organic matter under anaerobic conditions.
The higher the standard of living, the greater the amount of waste produced per capita. Population growth and the development of industry have led to an increasing use of raw materials and to pollution. Untreated solid waste pollutes the ground, groundwater and surface water, produces foul odors, visual hazards, sanitation problems, and mars the landscape.
Five million tons of waste per year
The amount of solid waste removed in Israel every year is estimated at about 5 million tons - about 50 kg. per person every month. If production of waste continues to rise by about 3.5% a year, we can expect to see amounts of about 70 kg. per person a month in 2020. Assuming that in that year the population numbers about 8.75 million, the weight of solid waste will exceed 7 million tons.
The composition of solid waste in Israel, by average volume, is: plastic (34.5%), paper (16.4%), organic matter (15.2%), carton (12.3%), textiles (3.8%), foliage (3.7%), metals (3.6%), disposable diapers (3.5%), glass (2.1%), and other - rubber, wood, etc. (4.9%).
Integrated treatment of solid waste is currently the preferred method used around the world. It is based on five processes:
* Reduction at source - reducing the amount and volume of waste to a minimum.
* Reuse - reusing products, for example using old tires to build acoustic protective walls along busy highways
* Conversion - producing energy from waste: turning the chemical energy in organic materials into available energy, by burning the waste in incinerators used especially for that purpose (under controlled conditions, without causing air pollution). The energy released can be used to produce electricity, steam and heat for heating purposes.
* Burial - burying waste at organized waste sites, while neutralizing seepage and gases. This is the most widely used method in Israel, with about 85% of all waste buried. The main reasons for the method's popularity are low cost and short transport distances. The cost of burial is about $10 per ton (in the United States the cost is $30 per ton, and in Europe it is even higher).
* Recycling - the process of removing various materials from the garbage flow and using them as raw materials or for making new products.
According to the Research and Markets research firm, between 2004-2008 municipal waste worldwide will increase by 31%. That assessment assumes a 7% annual rise in the rate of municipal waste production.
The United States has just 5% of the world's population, but it is responsible for producing about 30% of all global waste; a US resident produces more than 2 kg. of waste daily. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, about 84% of all waste in every home in the US can be recycled. In 2005, the amount of municipal waste in the US was 245 million tons. The distribution, by weight, was as follows: paper (34%), foliage (13%), plastic (12%), food scraps (11.5%), metals (7.5%), rubber, leather and textiles (7%), glass (5%), wood (5.5%) and other (4.5%).
The manner of treating solid waste in the US is as follows: 32% reuse or recycling, 14% incineration (part of that is intended for energy creation) and 54% burial.
Recycling figures for 2005: 99% of batteries, 62% of metals, 62% of foliage, 50% of paper, 45% of aluminum soft drink cans, 36% of tires, 34% of plastic soft drink bottles, and 25% of glass bottles.
In Europe, recycling is the preferred method. Legislation in Europe focuses on three main subjects:
1. Reducing the amount of waste at source.
2. Reducing the amount of waste sent for burial and defining the types of materials permitted for burial.
3. Transferring responsibility for waste treatment to the producer.
In order to promote these objectives, the countries encourage legislation for subsidies and providing grants, taxing materials and taxing less desirable technologies, such as burial. Recycling levels in Europe vary from country to country, but on average 50% of material is recycle in the metal and paper industries, 43% in the glass industry and about 40% in the non-ferrous metals industry.
The environmental technologies market is estimated at about $200 billion. The waste management market in North America is controlled by three main companies, which are listed on NASDAQ.
The first is Waste Management, Inc., the largest company providing integrated treatment services. The company's share price rose 20% in 2006, and company revenues in 2005 totaled $13b.
Allied Waste Industries comprises hundreds of companies in the waste management field, engaged in a broad range of solutions. The company's stock price jumped 40% in 2006, and revenues in 2005 amounted to $5.7b.
Another company is Republic Services, the leader in treating non-hazardous solid waste. The company's shares increased by about 10.5% in 2006, and its revenues in 2005 totaled $3b.
The figures show that this is a developing market, stemming from increasing awareness of the need for treating waste.
In November 2006, a document was published in Israel called Master Plan for Treating Solid Waste in Israel. The Hoshva Planning Company prepared the plan for the National Council for Planning and Building. The plan constitutes a significant step in implementing the solid waste treatment policy in Israel. This policy establishes that integrated treatment of waste should be promoted, including reduction at source, reuse, recycling, using waste in energy production, and burial.
Taxing waste burial
In light of the forecast that within just a few years all of Israel's approved and active landfills will run out of space, a number of moves for treating waste are expected to be taken, including imposing a tax on burying waste, in an effort to reflect the true price of burial and to enable fair competition for more advanced treatment methods, such as recycling and energy production from waste. The funds obtained from the burial tax would be repaid to local authorities for the purpose of building infrastructure for recycling and reuse.
Similarly, this past January the Knesset approved the Tire Recycling Law. The law is meant to regulate the removal and recycling of used tires, and to save on raw materials. Ministry of Environmental Protection figures say that three million tires are removed from service every year, and become waste. Earlier this month, the cabinet approved expanding the Deposit Law to include 1.5-liter drink bottles, as well.
Household waste recycling in Israel currently stands at 15%, and that figure increases to 20% when industrial waste, junk and used oil are also taken into account. The target for 2010 is 50% reuse and recycling of household waste. Beginning in 2007, the Recycling Law will require local authorities to recycle at least 25% of municipal waste.
In 2003, about 1.2 million tons of waste were recycled, constituting about 20% of all waste. The recycling distribution was as follows: paper and carton (20%), organic matter (23%), plastic (6%), glass (2%), ferrous metals (27.5%), non-metals (2%), foliage (13%), wood (2%), electronic equipment (0.5%) and miscellaneous (4%).
Factors delaying development of recycling in Israel include the low cost of burial, the low cost of raw materials, the lack of suitable infrastructure, including collection infrastructure in local authorities, the lack of initial sorting infrastructure and plants for accepting the sorted raw materials, a small market for raw materials originating from waste and the lack of a preference for purchasing products from recycled materials.
Local waste management companies
TMM Integrated Recycling Industries Ltd. is the leading company in Israel in the sphere of solid waste treatment. The company provides comprehensive and integrated services for about a third of the amount of waste produced annually. The services it provides include collection, removal and treatment of household, industrial and commercial waste; operating transit stations for accepting waste, recycling waste, compressing waste and transport to landfills; and operating national burial sites. It operates many of the burial sites in Israel, and even owns some of them. The company is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and in 2006 its shares rose 19%.
EER Environmental Energy Resources Ltd. provides environmentally friendly solutions for solid municipal waste, medical waste and low and intermediate radioactive waste. The company is controlled by the Shrem Fudim Kelner Group (19% - directly and indirectly), Urdan (21%) and Japanese and Korean investors.
Olshak & Partners Recycling Ltd. The Olshak Group began its activity the recycling sphere in 1972. When it was starting out, it mainly dealt with recycling cables to produce copper. In 1982 it built its first plant in Yavne. The company develops and applies various technologies in the sphere of recycling all kinds of metals. Recently, the company began wide-scale recycling in the hi-tech, computer and hardware industries.