Recycling initiative reaps millions more bottles than expected

Supersol collected the most bottles (3.5 million) and the residents of Tel Aviv recycled the most of any city (750,000.)

recycled bottles 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
recycled bottles 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ELA, the national recycling corporation, is pleasantly surprised by the results from the first month of its new initiative. The corporation inked a deal with the nation's supermarkets last month to allow all bottles that fall under the Deposit Law to be recycled at the stores, and predicted that a few hundred thousand bottles per month would be returned. But 7.5 million bottles were collected in the first month, returning nearly NIS 2 million to the public. According to the corporation, Supersol collected the most bottles (3.5 million) and the residents of Tel Aviv recycled the most of any city (750,000.) The agreement was worked out to enable companies and supermarkets to collect for recycling the bottles they had sold. It provided additional funds for infrastructure and manpower to collect and sort them - something which the supermarkets had been reluctant to really take on beforehand. ELA chairwoman Nehama Ronen spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday about the corporation's efforts, and helped clarify how to recycle plastic bottles and where. "All plastic drink bottles and bottles from the chemical industry like detergent, shampoo, and other cleaners can be recycled in the [collection] cages. Plastic bottles from the food industry, like ketchup, can't be recycled there because the leftover food in them will attract mice," she explained. Bottles that fall under the Deposit Law like wine bottles, drink bottles containing less than one liter and beer cans and bottles can be returned to supermarkets for a refund of NIS 0.25 each. As part of the new initiative, each person can bring in up to 50 bottles at a time. The cap is designed to prevent private companies from collecting large quantities of bottles and profiting from the Deposit Law, rather than the public. Ronen said that more than 95% of drink bottles recycled were returned because of ELA's agreements with 3,309 businesses around the country. Around 80 million bottles are recycled a year. More bottles were collected from restaurants, pubs and other businesses than from the cages, she said, but the public recycled more of its bottles through the cages. The corporation has come under fire from environmental organizations for failing to meet the annual percentage goals laid out by the Environmental Protection Ministry. Last year, Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra retroactively lowered the percentage rate goals to correspond to what the corporation had collected. Ronen lashed out at green groups for failing to understand the nature of running a business. "They complain because they've never run a business, never had to meet a budget," she snapped. "They brought about legislation which set goals based on Scandinavian goals. But we're not Scandinavia, where recycling has been part of the culture for a very long time. Also, the Deposit Law there is equivalent to NIS 0.80 and not NIS 0.25 - people are more loath to throw away a shekel," she continued. "They also use a lot of refillable bottles there, which is not allowed here. In Israel, they decided that refillable bottles used too much water and detergent to be viable," she added. Ronen said the corporation's bottle collection rate of 66% was actually very good and it hoped to raise that rate this year to 69%. Each percentage point represents 5.5 million bottles. "The biggest goal this year is to get the Packaging Law passed," Ronen said. "In Europe, only five out of 25 countries still have a Deposit Law - the rest have Packaging Laws. With a Packaging Law, everything gets recycled: bottles, cans, cartons, and plastic and not just bottles," she told the Post. A Packaging Law puts the responsibility for a product throughout its lifetime, including recycling and disposal and not just selling, on the manufacturer. European countries have achieved remarkable recycling success under such laws. The Manufacturers Association in Israel and the Knesset are in the midst of drafting a Packaging Law. ELA's shares are held by the bottle manufacturing companies, which provide its budget.