THE RECYCLING PATH

The impending closure of hundreds of waste dumps and their replacement by a few regional and central landfills, coupled with 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 by every possible means research, legislation, pilot projects, to name but a few. A recently-established interministerial steering committee on recycling will also be instrumental in further promoting the subject.

On the research front, four feasibility studies have been undertaken in recent years to investigate the economic, environmental and technological feasibility of recycling paper and cardboard, plastic containers, glass and tires. The studies conclude that collection and recycling make economic as well as environmental sense saving foreign currency, diminishing investments in the import of raw materials, reducing costs for collection and disposal of waste, increasing the life of existing landfills and minimizing environmental nuisances. The studies reveal that increased production in existing recycling plants is possible, but that the bottleneck lies mainly in collection, transportation and marketing.

Several initiatives are currently focusing on recycling projects in local authorities. Pilot facilities for separation at source are being set up in commercial centers, school premises and other locations in local authorities throughout the country. Kiryat Tivon, with 13,500 inhabitants, 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 have been encouraging. Recent data reveal that out of 450 tons of waste produced each month, over 13% (weight) and 30% (volume) are collected for recycling, through six drop-off recycling centers and a curbside commingled collection program for paper, plastics, glass and textiles. It is estimated that over 60% of the population takes part in the project.

Another project, accompanied by wide-scale education and information activities, has been running successfully in the municipality of Rishon Lezion since 1988. In this municipality of nearly 160,000, over half the population participates in the recycling initiative. Recent estimates point to the collection of some 1,200 tons of cardboard, 250 tons of paper and 36 tons of textiles per year, using 70 drop-off centers for paper and textiles (106 bins) and 60 bins for corrugated cardboard. The municipality has recently initiated a pioneer project for chopping yard waste. The chopped waste is currently used for mulching with future plans to sell the trunks to a plywood factory.

Several more pilot projects have been inaugurated this year, with the aid of numerous organizations. These include: separation at source in various neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, Kfar Sava, Hod Hasharon, Petah Tikvah, 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, serving tens of thousands of households throughout the country in more than 30 local authorities, constitute a significant breakthrough in the road toward wide-scale recycling.

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. The plant currently recycles some 50% of the 110,000 tons of waste it collects yearly; this figure is expected to increase substantially (to 76%) if tentative plans to use refuse derived fuel are implemented.

In yet another development, a new transfer station including a material recovery facility has recently begun operating in Petah Tikvah. This facility, located at the recently-closed Segula landfill site, provides for sorting of the waste, transfer of paper, carton and plastic to the Amnir recycling plant, and transport of the rest of the waste, after compaction, to the Modi’in landfill. The station is the first such facility in the central part of Israel.

Recycling Facts and Figures

Today, 96% of Israel’s domestic waste is buried in landfills, but it is expected that within a decade or two, recycling and incineration will increase significantly for the following reasons:

* Even the most well-planned and maintained sites are designed for use for only 20-30 years; * Inadequate land reserves will further diminish the availability of new landfill sites, thereby increasing the distance between sanitary landfills and the source of the waste; * The opening of new sites will become much more costly as technological means are undertaken to avoid contamination risks.

Comprehensive surveys on the composition of solid waste in Israel have not been conducted in recent years, but the estimated composition of domestic waste in Israel, according to weight, is as follows: 50-54% organic material, 16-21% paper and cardboard, 10- 12% plastic and synthetic material; 3-5% metals; 3-4% textiles; 0- 15% miscellaneous. Theoretically, all components of solid waste can be recycled. Practically, the current goal is to reach a 10% recycling rate in 1995 and approximately 25% by 2000.

Paper

One of the most successfully-recycled components of the waste stream worldwide and one of the major components of municipal trash is paper. Even prior to the passage of recycling legislation, paper was the only component of waste separated at source by Israeli households using special disposal containers. In recent years, 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., is 140,000 28% of total consumption. An additional 25,000 tons of office waste paper and cardboard waste are imported into Israel. In all, some 70% of the country’s total paper and cardboard production originates in recycled fibers.

Since 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 wastepaper 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 Ministry of the Environment.

Special attention is now 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 are the initial targets of this new campaign, in the short term. In view of the fact that the current school year has been officially designated the Year of the Environment in the educational system, the Minister of the Environment has called upon school principals and teachers to aid in advancing wastepaper recycling by educating students to purchase notebooks from recycled paper and by encouraging separation at source. This will increase the demand for recycled goods, bring about increased collection and reduce the overall volume of the country’s waste.

Plastic

Total plastic production in Israel is estimated at 320,000 tons/year, of which only 4.5% derives from recycled material. Some 35% of the total plastic production is designated for packaging, 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 kilos in the USA and 130 kilos 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.

The plastics industry now recycles 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 are recycled by Amnir a quantity expected to increase with the coming into effect of a regulation obligating the collection of plastic sheets from agriculture for disposal at 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 efforts in expanding the collection and recycling of these containers which constitute some 5-6% of the total volume of waste in Israel. 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 and boxes. One industrial plant in the Ramat Hovav area recycles mixed plastic as a substitute for wood (plastic wood), at a scale of some 2,000 tons per year. Other plants are expected to follow suit.

Scrap Metal

Israel’s steel mills produce about 250,000 tons of different grades of steel annually, of which 177,000 tons are recycled. Additional recycling of metal should be facilitated in the near future as a result of a plan to collect, compact and shred wrecked vehicles. A comprehensive collection and recycling program will make it possible for Israel to supply all of its consumption needs while helping to rid the country of the visual blight of some 50,000 wrecked vehicles annually.

In a related area, progress in recycling used beverage cans is expected as a result of the recent turnover to production of all- aluminum cans by Caniel, Israel’s sole producer of beverage cans. Previously, the cans contained different types of aluminum for the body, base and top, making them virtually non-recyclable. The new cans which entered the market in 1993 also feature push-in tabs, instead of the previously used pull-off rings.

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 used beverage cans is estimated at $3.5 million a year, collection and recycling are deemed to be economically viable.

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. Despite the high cost of transportation to the south of the country, where Israel’s only plant capable of glass recycling is located, feasibility studies have shown that recycling can be profitable, given the fact that the bulk of glass containers are concentrated in entertainment centers, thus facilitating collection.

A pilot program to study the collection of glass, mainly from entertainment centers, was initiated in the summer of 1993. One hundred 2-cubic-meter "igloo" containers were distributed in various locations in the central part of the country. The six- month experiment (which ended in December 1993) has provided valuable information on the feasibility of the project. Recommendations are to continue the experiment, to transfer the containers to areas in which both commercial centers and residential areas coexist and to increase the scope of education and information campaigns.

Local experience with returnable beer bottles shows that a glass container can last 10-15 years before reaching the landfill. Today, about 30 million liters of beer in 62 million bottles use the deposit system with a 90% return rate.

Tires

According to a 1992 survey, the total number of cars in Israel in 1990 was about 1,100,000. These cars produced over 2,300,000 scrap tires with a total weight of about 38,500 metric tons or 32,000 tons/year, after deducting the renewed tires. Based on the results of the survey, it is estimated that scrap tires currently total about 40,000 tons/year and will reach over 65,000 tons by the year 2000. About 38% of the tires are generated in the greater Tel Aviv area, 13% in the Haifa region, 8% in Jerusalem, 9% in Beersheba 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 for recycling purposes has led the Ministry of the Environment to initiate 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 results of the tender offer are currently being assessed.

Oil

Used oil is a hazardous substance; its unregulated use and discharge threatens water and air quality. The quantity of motor oil used in Israel, mostly by garages and industrial plants, is estimated at 50,000 tons, of which over 15,000 tons are recyclable. Today, only 7,000 tons are recycled largely due to the 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-promulgated 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 used oil. The regulations require the collection of the oil for disposal at a recycling facility or at the hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav.

Yard Waste

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 Sha’ar 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, and contribution to vigorous growth, moderate temperature changes and prevention of soil erosion. 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.

Table: Estimates of Recycling in Israel

                          Total        Post-Consumer                               Metric Tons  Paper and cardboard      130,000        70,000 Compost                   20,000        20,000 Plastic                   20,000         5,000 Misc (metal, glass        20,000        10,000 textile etc.)  Total                    190,000        105,000 % Recycling                7.0%           3.9% 

Battery Collection

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, present efforts are being focused on the separation of household batteries from ordinary trash, prevention of their disposal in landfills and promotion of disposal at 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 1993, to coincide with the inauguration of the Year of the Environment. The Ministry of the Environment has already provided local authorities with over 43,000 specially-designed battery-collection containers. Local authorities are then responsible for distributing the containers in convenient locations and collecting them when full for disposal at the central hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav. The project is 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.