Ministry unveils trash separation and recycling project

Aim is to get local authorities behind effort within three years

Recycling truck (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Recycling truck
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and his ministry took another step late last week toward revolutionizing what this country does with its trash, one of the five top goals he had set for himself upon taking up his post last year. This time, Erdan has targeted household trash.
Household trash can be divided into two components: wet and dry. Wet would be anything organic: peels, pits, leftover food, and so on. Dry would be anything else.
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The dry stream can be further divided, if one is interested, into recycleable products like paper, plastic, glass and metal. The wet stuff can be turned into organic fertilizer. When the two types of garbage are separated by the homeowners, it’s known as separation at the source.
What Erdan and the ministry announced on Thursday was a project to encourage local authorities to start moving toward separation at the source for all residents within three years. The ministry will provide NIS 200m. each and professional assistance to those municipalities or local authorities who commit to completing the process within three years and sticking with it for at least a decade.
The ministry would provide all of the trash cans needed for separation at the source, as well as other infrastructure changes and general support.
The goal for this first stage of the project is to get 500,000 residents to separate their trash at the source by 2013. The ministry said the project would cost NIS 3b. over the next decade, of which the ministry would contribute half and the local authorities the other half.
This stage of the project joins several other efforts the ministry is making to revamp the handling of trash. A packaging bill to make manufacturers and importers responsible for recycling the packaging their products are sold in is making its way through the Knesset.
The ministry is in talks with the Manufacturers Association as to the best way to craft the bill.
The levy per ton of trash dumped in a landfill has also been steadily rising to make it less economically attractive.
The ministry is also encouraging, and financing in part, large waste-treatment facilities on a municipal scale.
The move to recycling is actually part of a 30-year plan the ministry has been doggedly pursuing since it was formed in 1989. The first step was to organize trash disposal into authorized landfills, which took about 20 years to achieve for the most part. Construction and demolition waste is still largely dumped on the sides of roads and the ministry is working to change that as well.
The next phase is to encourage recycling, which is what Erdan has pledged to do.
The ministry is operating on the premise that burying trash in landfills is ultimately detrimental to the country.
It argues that landfills take up scarce land, and contribute to pollution and global warming.
Furthermore, treating much of the country’s waste as mere garbage ignores its value as a source of raw materials. Plastic, paper, metal, and organic matter can all be recycled. The ministry has been working to encourage the markets for recycled products as well.
Trash can also be used to produce electricity via a number of different processes.
Israelis produce 6 million tons of trash a year, 4.2 million of which come from households. The rest comes from industry, according to the ministry. Right now, 87% of household waste is interred in landfills, rather than recycled.