SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT: NEW HOPE
Israelis produce about 2.7 million tons of waste per yearwith quantities increasing at an average rate of 2% yearly. While plans for more effective treatment of solid waste date back some twenty years, the basis for government policy is rooted in the National Outline Scheme for Solid Waste Disposal, approved in 1989. The plan proposes 24 solid waste disposal sites, three of which are designated as central sites (Bet Guvrin, on the southern coastal plain, Ein Hashofet, on the southern part of the Carmel mountain and Talya in the Jordan Valley) and the rest as local landfills for the short term. Seven sites are earmarked for alternative solid waste treatment (incineration and recycling), one for emergency use
(Hiriya), and one for the disposal and treatment of hazardous waste
The masterplan sets no timetable for establishing new landfills nor for shutting down unauthorized dumps; it allows for their continued use until an alternative is found. Moreover, the statutory approval process for new landfills requires approval by local and district planning commissions, paving the way for local opposition. The result: detailed plans for authorized sanitary landfills have not been approved in most cases, and over two-thirds of Israel’s population is not yet covered by a comprehensive solution to the problem of solid waste disposal.
Today, 96% of Israel’s domestic waste is landfilled in some 400 waste dumps29 of which are large landfills receiving over 25 tons of waste per day. Most sites are poorly designed and managed; many have reached or will soon reach full capacitywith no alternative in sight. Each delay in implementing the masterplan exacerbates such nuisances as contamination of water sources (especially groundwater), stench, air pollution, aesthetic damages and threats to flight safety. The most difficult problem lies in Hiriya, a landfill receiving about 2,500 tons of refuse a day from the Greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area. An alternative has not yet been found for this site despite the fact it is slated for closure in 1995.
To overcome these difficulties and delays, a proposal was submitted to the government in June 1993 by the Ministers of the Environment, Interior and Finance. The proposal, approved in principle and transferred to a ministerial committee for final drafting, is meant to expedite the establishment of central landfills, to shut down hundreds of illegal waste dumps throughout the country, and to create an infrastructure for environmentally-safe solid waste disposal both in the short and long terms.
Specifically, the decision calls for closure of most of the country’s small garbage dumps within the next year and for their replacement by five authorized sanitary landfills, as follows:
* Three existing landfillsModi’in (in the central region of the country), Ashdod (in the southern coastal area) and Evron (in the Western Galilee)will be prepared and equipped to serve as regional sites on a temporary basis;
* Two existing landfillsDudaim (west of Beer Sheva) and Talya (in the north)will be improved according to strict environmental requirements and expanded within one year to serve as central sites for a significant part of the country’s waste, with the exception of hazardous waste;
* The Hiriya landfill will be closed by the end of 1995 and will subsequently be rehabilitated.
These regional and central sites, along with the landfills included in the National Outline Scheme (see map), will be established and operated in accordance to professional guidelines prepared by the Ministry of the Environment so as to prevent environmental and health nuisances and risks. They will include state-of-the-art technologies for every stage of landfilling from siting to post- closure, including sealing, leachate detection, collection, treatment and disposal, methane gas collection and use, proper covering of the waste during operation, closure procedures
(landfill capping), and monitoring of possible contamination of groundwater during and after closure (up to 30 years).
An amendment to the National Outline Scheme for Solid Waste Disposal, which will institutionalize these changes, was recently presented to the National Planning and Building Board for approval. Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Environment is determining priorities for closing down unauthorized dumps and rehabilitating them, taking into account, inter alia, environmental and financial considerations. Plans for landfill sites in Ein Hashofet, Dudaim and Oron (in the Negev) will continue to be promoted and possibilities for incineration will be examined.
The Recycling Path
The impending closure of dozens of waste dumps and their replacement by a few regional and central landfills, coupled with the ever-increasing requirements for high environmental standards in landfilling, will significantly increase the cost of solid waste disposal. Calculation of the true economic and environmental costs of landfilling is expected to expedite the move to low- or non- waste technologies and to encourage the implementation of waste reduction, reuse and recycling options. To facilitate these developments, Israel is redoubling its efforts to promote recycling through education and information campaigns, research and legislation, and pilot plants throughout the country.
Four feasibility studies to investigate the economic, environmental and technological feasibility of recycling paper and cardboard, plastic containers, glass and tires have already revealed that collection and recycling make economic as well as environmental sense. What is needed now is implementationand initiatives are being launched in almost every conceivable direction.
One campaign focuses on the placement of pilot facilities for separation at source in commercial centers and school premises in local authorities. One authority, Kiryat Tivon, constitutes a national model for recycling since its pioneer program was accompanied by a wide-based educational component from the very start. The results so far are encouraging. Data for 1991 have revealed that out of 450 tons of waste produced each month, some 8- 10% (by weight) or 17% (by volume) was recycled through five drop- off centers. Since September 1992, Tivon has implemented a curbside commingled collection program for paper, plastics, glass, and textiles. In the first five months, more than 50% of the population took part in the initiative, raising recycling to 15%
(weight) and 30% (volume).
Another recycling initiative, accompanied by wide-scale education and information activities, has been running successfully in the municipality of Rishon Lezion since 1988. Forty-three aesthetically-designed drop-off centers for paper and textiles and 60 bins for corrugated cardboard collect some 100 tons of cardboard, 20 tons of newspapers and 3 tons of textiles per month some 1500 tons of recyclables per year. The municipality has recently initiated a pioneer project for chopping yard waste; yard waste is used for mulching and in the future trunks will be sold to a plywood factory. Several more pilot projects will begin this year, with the aid of numerous organizations, including the Ministry of the Interior. These include: separation at source in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, Kfar Sava, Hod Hasharon, Petah Tikva, Kiryat Ono, and the Hadera and Ashdod town associations, under the responsibility of the municipalities and local environmental units; recycling centers in nine local authorities in the south of the country with the cooperation of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; separation at source of plastics in Ramat Hasharon; and purchase of collection and compaction equipment for paper and cardboard and of yard waste choppers in several local authorities. These projects, slated to serve tens of thousands of households throughout the country, constitute a significant breakthrough in the road toward wide-scale recycling. Further promotion of the subject will be facilitated with the aid of a recently-established interministerial steering committee on recycling.
On the legislative front, a recycling bill was approved by the Knesset in early June, following years of deliberation. It enables local authorities to designate recycling centers and to install containers for separation at source within their jurisdiction. Municipalities will be authorized to pass by-laws detailing procedures for the collection and disposal of waste for recycling, and business and home owners will be required to install and maintain recycling containers in accordance to municipal directives. Another regulation, in effect since March 1993, prohibits the burning of plastic films used in greenhouses and as plastic covering in agricultural fields and requires their collection at the edge of the field for recycling or their transport by the owner to a landfill. Still another regulation, signed by the Minister of the Environment in early June, requires the collection of used oil for disposal to a recycling facility or to the hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav. Other regulations, at various stages of preparation or consideration, include: a requirement to have manufacturers mark products with the accepted universal code indicating type of material as well as the appropriate emblem for recyclable or recycled material; bans on the introduction of scrap tires and unchopped yard waste into sanitary landfills; and a deposit program for returnable containers and bottles.
Commercial recycling is continuing in Amnir’s Afula plant (NAAM) in northern Israel which collects waste from several local authorities with a population of 150,000. The $2.5 million facility began operating in 1989 for the purpose of separating and recycling compost, cardboard, paper, organic materials, plastics and metals. In 1992, the plant recycled some 50% of the 100,000 tons of waste it collected; this figure is expected to increase substantially if tentative plans to use Refuse Derived Fuel are implemented.
In yet another development, a new transfer station which will include a material recovery facility (MRF) is now being built in Petah Tikva. This operation, located at the currently-used exhausted landfill site, will enable closure of the landfill, sorting of the waste and transfer of the rejects to the Modi’in landfill. The station will start to operate this summer, and will be the first such facility in the central part of Israel.
One of the most successfully-recycled components of the waste stream worldwideand one of the major components of municipal trashis paper. Even prior to passage of recycling legislation, paper was the only component of waste separated at source by Israeli households using special disposal containers. In 1992, some 505,000 tons of paper and cardboard were used in Israel, of which 300,000 tons were imported. The quantity collected for recycling by Amnir Recycling Industries, a subsidiary of American Israel Paper Mills Ltd., was 135,00027% of total consumption. An additional 25,000 tons of paper and cardboard waste were imported into Israel. In all, some 70% of the country’s total paper and cardboard production currently originates in recycled fibers. In consideration of the fact that paper and cardboard comprise some 20% of the total weight and about 30% of the total volume of Israel’s solid waste, efforts are being focused on encouraging paper collection, on the one hand, and purchase of recycled paper, on the other hand. A paper collection project geared at government ministries, accompanied by a guidebook on paper waste recycling, has been in effect for over a year. In addition, an experimental wastepaper collection project for households has been initiated in the municipalities of Ra’anana and Givataim, with the financial support of the Environment Ministry.
Special attention is now being concentrated on encouraging the production and marketing of recycled products, in order to boost both consumption and production of recycled writing and printing paper. Government offices and the school system will be the target of this new campaign, in the short term. The Minister of the Environment has already called upon school principals and teachers to aid in advancing paper waste recycling by educating youth to purchase notebooks from recycled paper (recently made available for the first time) and by encouraging separation at source for recycling purposes. In view of the fact that the upcoming school year will focus on the environment, students will be urged to make their contribution by purchasing notebooks made of recycled paper and disposing of their waste in specially-designated containers. This will increase the demand for recycled goods, bring about increased collection and reduce the overall volume of the country’s waste.
Total plastic production in Israel is estimated at 320,000 tons/year, of which only 4.5% derives from recycled material. Some 35% of total plastic production is designated for packaging materials, 28% for agriculture, 14% for construction, 10% for home utensils and the rest (13%) for other uses. The total quantity of plastic waste is estimated at 8-12% of the total weight of waste in Israel, divided almost equally between agricultural, industrial and domestic waste. Plastic consumption in Israel remains relatively low, some 64 kilograms per capita, as compared to 100 kg in the USA and 130 kg in Germany. However, in light of the development of the industry and the accelerated rate of population growth, this figure is expected to increase significantly in the near future.
In 1992, the plastics industry recycled about 15,000 tons of thermo-plastic materials. In the agricultural sector about 15%
(some 5,000 tons/year) of the polyethylene sheets and pipes were recycled by Amnira quantity expected to increase with the recent coming into effect of a regulation obligating the collection of plastic sheets from agriculture for disposal to landfills or recycling plants.
The total quantity of plastic containers produced is 25,500 tons per year, of which 15,000 are P.E.T, a material not yet recycled in Israel. In light of the fact that some 430 million liters of light beverages and water (out of a total of 650 million liters) are bottled in P.E.T containers, the country is now investing special efforts in expanding collection and recycling of these containers which constitute some 5-6% of the total volume of waste in Israel. For this purpose, industries are encouraged to manufacture each product from the least number of components and legislation has been proposed calling for the marking of plastic containers with the appropriate codes and emblems to facilitate recycling.
In 1991, Amnir invested in a plastics recycling plant in Hadera. The plant currently processes some 7,000 tons of plastic a year and expects to reach 10,000 tons within four years. Larger scale recycling is conditional upon the expansion of the recycled goods market. At present, the market is restricted to such uses as garbage bags, irrigation pipelines, detergent containers, injection materials, toys, boxes, etc.
Israel’s steel mills produce about 250,000 tons of different grades of steel annually, of which 177,000 tons were recycled in 1991. Additional collection and recycling of metal will be facilitated in the near future with the completion of a vehicle scrap metal shredding plant in Ashkelon. As of this summer, the company, which won the national tender for the collection, compaction and shredding of wrecked vehicles, will be obligated to collect vehicle scrap from central collection points established by local authorities in return for a $10 per ton fee. The anticipated growth in scrap metal collection should bring about a notable increase in metal recycling while helping rid the country of the visual blight of some 50,000 wrecked vehicles annually. It is estimated that about 300,000 tons of waste metal are produced in Israel annually; a comprehensive collection and recycling program will make it possible for Israel to supply all of its consumption needs.
In a related area, major progress is expected in the recycling of used beverage cans as a result of a recent decision by Caniel, Israel’s sole producer of beverage cans, to convert its production line to all-aluminum cans, at a $1 million investment. In the wake of ongoing contacts with the Ministry of the Environment, the company, a winner of a special certificate of merit for its environmental activities during last year’s Environment Week, will begin production of the new beverage cans during the course of 1993, with supply slated to begin in the winter of 1994. Until now, the cans contained different types of aluminum for the body, base and top, making them virtually unrecyclable. The company also expects to replace the pull-off rings on its cans with push-in tabs, so as to conserve raw materials and contribute to the country’s cleanliness.
Caniel produces about 250 million beverage cans a year, constituting some 1.5% of the total volume of waste in Israel. Since the economic value of the total quantity of used beverage cans is estimated at $3.5 million a year, collection and recycling are deemed to be economically viable. Caniel’s decision has been warmly welcomed by the Ministry of the Environmentfor its contribution to recycling as well as overall cleanliness since it will help rid the Israeli landscape of one of its ugliest visual blightsempty cans. Glass
Annual consumption of glass stands at about 100,000 tons with a recycling potential of some 60,000 tons per year. In reality, however, less than 1% of the country’s glass is recycled. The Phoenicia plant, located in Yeruham in the south of Israel, is the only plant capable of glass recycling at present. However, feasibility studies have shown that despite the high cost of transportation, recycling can be profitable given the fact that the majority of glass containers are concentrated in entertainment centers, thus facilitating collection. A pilot program to study the collection of glass, mainly from entertainment centers, has started this summer. One hundred 2-cubic-meter "igloo" containers were distributed in various locations around the central part of the country. The six-month experiment (due to end in December 1993) will provide valuable information on the feasibility of the project and its continuation. Local experience with returnable beer bottles shows that about 30 million liters of beer in 62 million bottles use the deposit system with a 90% return rate.
The total number of cars in Israel in 1990 was about 1,100,000, producing over 2,300,000 scrap tires per year with a total weight of about 38,500 metric tons. After deducting the renewed tires, scrap tires are estimated to weigh 32,000 tons/year. Since the increase in motor vehicles is estimated at 6% year, scrap tires will total about 41,300 in 1993 and 65,900 by the year 2000. About 38% is generated in the greater Tel Aviv area, 13% in the Haifa Bay region, 8% in Jerusalem, 9% in Beer-Sheva and the southern region and 32% in the rest of the country.
The readiness of several companies to collect scrap tires from central locations in municipalities, without payment, for recycling purposes has led the Ministry of the Environment to begin preparations for a national bid for the collection and environmentally-safe disposal of scrap tires. Local authorities will be required to establish sites for scrap tire collection and used tire producers will convey their waste to these central sites for collection.
The quantity of motor oil used in Israel is estimated at 50,000 tons, of which over 15,000 are recyclable. The major sources of used oil, which constitutes a hazardous substance, are garages and industrial plants. Today, some 7,000 tons of used motor oil are recycled by Paz Industries in Haifa which operates Israel’s only oil recycling facility. The company, a recipient of the 1993 environmental prize for environmental excellence in the industrial sector, only operates at half capacity. The reasonsthe high cost of buying and transporting used oil, tax requirements, and until recently, the lack of legislation requiring safe disposal and treatment of used oil. As a result, some 3,000 tons are collected illegally for unregulated fuel use or incineration, and additional quantities find their way to the sewage system, to the soil and to water sources.
It is possible to treat used oil for clean burning or for oil products or to recycle it for reuse as a base oil through a process of separation, purification and rerefining. The renewed oil then serves as a substitute for imported crude oil productssaving foreign currency. A recently-signed regulation, prohibiting the pouring, burning or disposal of waste oil by garages and other producers and consumers, should bring an end to the environmental contamination caused by unsafe disposal of oil. The regulations require the collection of the oil for disposal to a recycling facility or to the hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav.
It is estimated that about 550,000 tons of yard waste, including brush, leaves, grass clippings and small trunks, are produced in Israel yearly. Chopping of this waste to reduce volume, and research on alternative uses (energy production, plywood, substitute for sawdust and straw for animal bedding, compost, and mulching) are currently on the agenda. To promote the idea, several local authorities have been granted financial aid to purchase chopping equipment (e.g. Rishon Lezion, Karmiel, Hadera, Lake Kinneret Authority, and the regional councils of Jezreel, Menashe, and Shaar Hanegev). It is hoped that their accumulated experience will aid in the promulgation of regulations prohibiting the burning of yard waste and requiring chopping.
The use of yard waste for mulching is especially attractive because of its water saving capacity, savings in herbicide use and soil cultivation, contribution to vigorous growth, moderate temperature changes and prevention of soil erosion. A recently completed experiment in one of Israel’s universities confirms these advantages. Furthermore, the Jewish National Fund has begun experimenting with mulching using chopped yard waste in a four- hectare area in its forests to check the efficiency and benefit of this use.
It is estimated that each Israeli uses about 17 batteries per year, or 1.4 kilograms of batteries per family on average. The annual quantity is estimated at 1,500-1,800 tons. About 50 million batteries find their way to waste dumps, threatening groundwater quality, or in case of incineration, polluting the air. In Israel, only car batteries are recycled; the relatively small quantity of household batteries has thus far prevented the development of a viable industry for the collection and recycling of batteries. Therefore, at present, efforts are being focused on the separation of household batteries from ordinary trash, prevention of their disposal in landfills and promotion of disposal to the Ramat Hovav hazardous waste site.
A national battery-collection campaign, organized by the Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with local authorities and environmental units, was launched in June, to coincide with the celebration of Environment Week. The ministry has already designed a special battery-collection container and will fund its purchase by local authorities. It will be the responsibility of local environmental units or municipalities, possibly with the aid of volunteers, to distribute the containers and to collect them when full, first for temporary storage in ministry-approved central warehouses, and later for permanent disposal to Ramat Hovav. The containers will be placed in convenient locations throughout the countryshops selling batteries, public organizations, educational institutes and industrial plants. The project will be accompanied by a national information campaign featuring posters, stickers, media coverage and special service announcements on television. A follow-up survey will be funded by the Ministry of the Environment in order to draw conclusions from results during the first year.
A new program of "environmental labeling" will soon be launched in Israel to inform consumers of the environmental effects of products and to promote goods which are deemed to be "environmentally- friendly." The label, to be granted by the Ministry of the Environment through the Standards Institute of Israel, will represent an holistic judgment, giving an overall assessment of a product’s environmental quality relative to other products in its category. It will be awarded on a "cradle to grave" basis, taking into consideration the product’s environmental impact at each stage in its life cycle (pre-production, production, distribution, utilization, and disposal). A product may be certified "environmentally-friendly" because it is made in a way that improves energy efficiency, reduces hazardous by-products and waste, uses recycled materials, or because the product itself can be reused.
The environmental label will be a market-oriented instrument of environmental policy, designated to encourage the development of positive environmental properties which will be recognized as product-related measures of quality.
June 1993 was a good month for the environment in Israel. Within the course of only one week, a recycling bill was approved, used- oil recycling regulations were signed, and a revolutionary solid waste plan was approved in principle by the government. The coming months will see a flurry of activity to implement these important breakthroughs.
The various initiatives currently being carried out, backed up by legislation and enforcement, should lead to a definite reduction in the amount of solid waste produced, to fewer and environmentally- safer landfills and to increased reuse and recycling of existing products. Israel’s newest campaigns, designated to help solve the country’s solid waste problem, will make for a cleaner and more aesthetic country, reducing environmental nuisances and protecting Israel’s precious groundwater and land reserves.