Ministry of the Environment – Information Sheet
May, 1994

MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
DIVISION OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
P.O. Box 6234
Jerusalem 91061

Plans to establish 15-20 centers to dispose of infectious hospital waste have recently been discussed by a joint Environment and Health Ministry committee. The committee, headed by Deputy Director-General Shmuel Brenner, is working according to guidelines on biological waste established by the World Health Organization. The regional centers will be established at main hospitals around the country and would use autoclaves and shredders to dispose of biological waste. After mapping the centers, proposals will be drawn up and a tender offer issued to private entrepreneurs.

Currently, most of the hospital waste ends up in garbage dumps, posing an environmental and health hazard. The committee will also deal with two other categories of hazardous hospital waste – chemical and radioactive, although partial solutions already exist for them.

* Israel recently ceased importing petrol from Mexico for environmental reasons. The petrol contains a relatively high level of pollutants. The Minister, Mr Yossi Sarid revealed that this was the first time that Israel has made a decision concerning the import of petrol for reasons unrelated to politics or security concerns, and for purely environmental reasons alone. Today, Egypt is the main supplier of petrol to Israel, with Israel buying 4 million tons of gas, being 40% of the Israel’s fuel consumption. Another 10% of Israel’s petrol comes from Norway,and the rest – 50% from the Gulf States, via European agents.

In another step towards improving air quality, the Ministry of Energy has introduced unleaded gas in the Dan region, accompanied by a widespread advertising campaign regarding usage of the petrol.

* Attwoods PLC, the UK-based waste management specialist, announced it will be setting up an Israeli subsidiary. Attwoods Israel will deal with industrial and consumer waste management programs, such as recycling, landfills, transfer stations, collection and all enterprises dealing with ecological business. The company will also investigate the possibility of establishing facilities, such as incinerators, to deal with the disposal of hazardous wastes.

Cans in Israel are now fully recyclable. At the beginning of this year, Caniel, the country’s largest producer of metal beverage containers, unveiled its new production line for the manufacture of aluminum beverage containers, which are recyclable. The cans also have a tab that does not separate from the can itself.

Caniel recently announced that all the country’s leading beverage companies have switched to its new totally recyclable all-aluminum cans.

* Since the decision earlier this year, to institute a new Israeli environmental standard for local consumer products, three different criteria have already been prepared and publicized for producers – hygienic paper with reduced environmental impact, including toilet paper, paper napkins etc; paper and cardboard products for packaging with reduced environmental impact, and paper products for writing and printing with reduced environmental impact. The ‘Green Label’ is a white tree with three heart shaped leaves on a green background. In order to qualify, a product must conform to at least one of the following conditions: improved energy efficiency, elimination of dangerous materials, use of recycled materials, ability to be recycled itself, reduced use of packaging or having some other quality that reduces adverse environmental impact. Future green label products will include sprays that do not harm the ozone layer, water-saving toilet flushers, mercury free batteries, solar water heaters, biological pesticides.

* The Ministry of the Environment has appointed a team of specialists to supervise the use of methyl bromide, a pesticide considered to be a major ozone-depleting substance. This decision follows a report endorsed by the Minister, Mr Yossi Sarid. The report was submitted by a committee appointed in July 1993, after international environmental protection groups, particularly Greenpeace, complained about Israel’s production and use of methyl bromide. Israel is one of the world’s leading producers of methyl bromide.

The U.S. has banned the use of methyl bromide from the year 2001 and European countries are phasing out the substance with a possible complete ban as early as 1998. The Ministry has reiterated Israel’s commitment to the Vienna Conventions, Montreal Protocol and London Amendments on ozone-depleting substances, which it signed in 1992. Israel has promised to freeze the quantity of the chemical compound produced in 1995. One of the main recommendations of the report was to conduct further research to find an alternative to methyl bromide, used mainly in agriculture.

Minister of the Environment, Mr Yossi Sarid, recently issued 10 special ministry orders to quarries operating without permits or causing environmental damage, which strictly define the working conditions there, including the hours, quantities and areas of operation. According to Sarid, quarries were at the top of the ministry’s agenda and President Ezer Weizman had also expressed concern for the damage caused by illegal land excavation.

* At the end of April this year, reflooding of the Hula Valley was commenced. The flooding project is the initiative of the Jewish National Fund, the Agricultural Ministry, the Israel Lands Administration and the region’s local authorities. A 1,500 dunam area is slated to be returned to its original swampland state, in an operation aimed at restoring the habitat of flora and fauna that once thrived in the area.

* A new undergraduate program in environmental studies will be introduced in September 1994 (beginning of the study year) at the Hebrew University’s Science Faculty. According to the university spokesperson, the program is being introduced because of the increased public interest in the field, as well as the substantial environment-related research already being conducted at the university. The program will enable students to major in environmental studies along with another specialty.

* Ministry of the Environment response to the new Housing program approved by the government on 29.5.94 – Minister of the Environment said construction permits for new neighborhoods or industrial areas will not be granted until sewage and waste disposal plans have been approved by representatives of the Health and Environment Ministries. " It is not possible to flood the center of the country with land for construction, because there is no land to flood it with", Sarid said. "There are no reserves of land in the center: there is no more central region for construction purposes". The minister had several demands, similar to those of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and other environmental groups.

* A petition has been submitted to the High Court of Justice calling on the National Planning Authority to require a full environmental impact assessment statement to be conducted before work begins on the "Across Israel Road". The petitioners are "The Israel Environment Defense Union", Mr. Yosef Tamir, chairman of "Life and the Environment". The umbrella organization of all environmental NGO’s in Israel, and various professors active in the field of the environment.

* The Israel Manufacturers Association, through Mr Akiva Moses, head of the associations’ environment department, stated (26.5.94) that industries have invested more than $80 million in environmental treatment over the last two years. The association has called on the government to finance such investments in existing plants and ensure enforcement of environmental regulations in the autonomous areas.

Regional Cooperation

* In honor of the Id al-Adha festival, (21.5.94) the Jericho municipality and Palestinian police decided to hold a clean-up campaign. When the Minister of the Environment, Mr Yossi Sarid, heard about the campaign, he ordered his staff to immediately forward 1,000 garbage bags – made from recycled plastic – to Palestinian police chief, Mr Mundar Rashid.

* For the first time, an official Israeli delegation was invited to participate in a conference in Tunisia, an Arab country which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, at the invitation of the Tunisian government. The MAP/ "Mediterranean 2111 conference, held earlier this month, with representatives from all the Mediterranean countries, was held as a first preparatory conference to the Ministerial meeting to be held in Tunisia in November this year. Last week’s Med 21 conference dealt with amendments to the Barcelona Convention of 1975 concerning Protection of the Mediterranean Sea and Prevention of Marine Pollution. During the Med 21 conference, Israel at one stage took the role of peacemakers when a dispute broke out between the Tunisian delegation and representatives from most of the other 24 delegations. The head of the Israeli delegation, Director-General of the Ministry, Dr. Israel Peleg, extended an invitation by the Minister, Mr Yossi Sarid, to the Tunisian Minister of the Environment, to visit Israel. The Tunisian Minister promised to visit Israel soon, and expressed the hope that such a visit would be possible as soon as finalization of outstanding issues between the Israel and the Palestinians.

* The next round of the multilateral talks on the environment will take place in Bahrain, in October or November, 1994, which the Minister, Mr Sarid, plans to attend. At the last round of talks – the fifth – held last month in the Hague, practical progress was made in various areas of regional cooperation:

(1) The practical aspects of establishing a network of regional emergency centers for marine pollution in Eilat, Aqaba and Nuweiba, whereby the European Union pledged 3 million dollars to the establishment of such a network. The centers will be established in Eilat, Aqaba and Nuweiba and will begin operations within one year;

(2) The World Bank submitted a proposal on combatting desertification. The proposal was formulated by teams from Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians and focused on four different subjects: open grazing land, use of water sources and rehabilitating salinated areas, economic management of orchards and woodlands, and developing plant life suited to arid areas.