Israel Environment Bulletin Spring 1996-5756, Vol. 19, No. 2


by Dr. Uri Marinov, Environmental Consultant


Industry has traditionally been considered the main contributor to environmental pollution and, therefore, it was among the first sectors to draw government intervention. Israeli legislation enabled the environmental administration to require plants to introduce pollution prevention facilities, to treat wastes, to transfer hazardous wastes to the central site at Ramat Hovav, and to abate noise nuisances.

More than 19,000 industrial plants, employing more than 370,000 people, operate in Israel. The environmental impacts generated by this scale of industrial production are considerable. According to statistics provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israeli industry is responsible for some 30% of SOx emissions, 6% of NOx emissions and 25% of all particulate emissions. Most of Israel’s hazardous waste and, of course, its industrial wastes, are produced by the industrial sector.

Industry as Polluter

Damages to the environment as a result of industrial processesdecrease in raw materials, land deterioration, extinction of species, damage to human health and climate changemake it clear that industrial development as it is practiced today is not sustainable. Future development and the ability of future generations to supply their own needs are being undermined by the misuse or contamination of land, water, air, marine and natural resources.

The central concept behind sustainable development is to enable the biosphere to supply "environmental services" to the population by means of renewable processes, without investment in non-renewable materials. In the natural environment, nutrients are transferred from organism to organism and materials and energy are circulated and transferred. Industrial ecology seeks to replicate this state by minimizing waste and maximizing the cycling of materials and energy. Reuse and recycling are become more prevalent both within the framework of industrial processes and as industries in their own right.

The following developments are expected to have a positive impact on industry in the future:

  • Increased industrial responsibility for "clean" production processes and for environment-friendly products.
  • Comprehensive supervision and treatment of all industrial plants, not only individual plants.
  • Increased investments in pollution prevention and waste treatment in the first stage.
  • Introduction of changes in production processes and in material use in the second stage.
  • Growing opposition by the government and the public to increased environmental risks.
  • Increased influence of powerful environmental bodies (such as Green Peace) on industrial decision making.
  • Increased insurance costs to cover environmental damages.

    As environmental considerations are increasingly incorporated in industrial planning and construction processes, it is anticipated that future industrial development in Israel will take the following directions:

    Industrial production which is based on local materials such as those derived from mining and quarrying will decrease. The increased cost of raw materials for construction will facilitate the introduction of new materials (e.g. plastics, aluminum, glass) and the recycling of construction material.

    Effluent treatment facilities will be established in all industrial plants thus enabling these plants to be connected to municipal sewage systems. As water prices rise, new technologies for industrial water conservation and reuse will be introduced. Improved treatment of domestic wastewater will generate large quantities of effluents at a quality which will enable industrial reuse. The allocation of high-quality water for industries such as the food industry will continue.

    Industrial plants which emit gases or particulate matter will be equipped with the necessary facilities and suitable production processes to assure compliance with strict emission standards. Energy conservation and use of less polluting fuels such as gas and electricity will be promoted. As a result of the rise in raw material costs in Israel and the world, new technologies for reducing material use and increasing recycling will be developed. Increased costs of waste disposal will bring about significant changes in production processes so as to reduce wastes.

    Future industrial development in Israel will focus on hi-tech industries, which are based on expertise and new technologies, rather than raw material use.

    Strategies for Sustainable Industrial Development

    The following guidelines have been formulated for sustainable industrial development:

  • Reduce to a minimum the amount of material used to manufacture a product. The quantity of aluminum now used in beverage cans is one-third less than a decade ago, while the quantity of steel in motor vehicles has been significantly reduced over the past two decades.
  • Reduce to a minimum energy use in the production process. Use materials which are less energy-intensive, improve production processes and switch to alternative or renewable energy sources.
  • Switch from toxic to non-toxic materials, including lead-free gasoline and degradable pesticides.
  • Switch from coal and oil use to gas and solar energy use.
  • Utilize waste materials from one industry or one stage of manufacturing as raw material in another.
  • Use materials which consume less energy, such as bulbs or refrigerators which use less electricity.
  • Design products which may be reused or upgraded rather than thrown away as waste, such as modular computers.
  • Manufacture products from recyclable materials, such as aluminum beverage cans or recycled plastic cans.
  • Create products which are degradable and whose byproducts are non-toxic.
  • Design products which will have a minimal impact on the environment during their life cycle and which will be recyclable at the completion of their life cycle.
  • Shift from the manufacture of products to the supply of services. For example, the pesticide industry should provide integrated services for biological and chemical control; public transport services should be substituted for private vehicles, etc.
  • Prepare and publish the inventory of materials which enter and exit the production process. Publish emission data so as to catalyze both the community and the industrial plant to take steps for emission reduction. Publicize the "environment-friendliness" of different products so as to enable consumers to choose products with minimal environmental impact.

    An analysis of the current state in Israel reveals the following:

    Awareness of water conservation is high. As a result of increased environmental enforcement, industrial water recycling is on the rise and cases of domestic effluent recycling have begun to emerge as well.

    Awareness of energy conservation is not sufficiently high. Studies reveal that it is possible to attain savings of up to 15-20% in industrial energy use in Israel.

    While industries are becoming more aware of technologies for reduced resource consumption and increased material recycling, the relatively low cost of waste disposal in Israel has precluded significant improvements in this direction. It is anticipated that the increased costs of industrial waste collection, transportation and disposal will influence industry to increase its efforts in this direction.

    Production of recyclable products, and especially packaging material, will be largely impacted by legislation.

    At this stage of industrial development in Israel, it is unlikely that industry will independently adopt such new concepts as a shift from production to services, design of products with minimal adverse environmental impact or production of long-life or recyclable products. With the introduction of natural gas into the Israeli energy market, industrial plants which are large consumers of energy should switch to gas use.

    The industrial sectors which will be most affected by sustainable industrial policy are plants using water and local materials, chemical and petrochemical industries, and the packaging industry.

    As a result of environmental and planning restrictions, most industrial development will be concentrated in the south of the country while the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Central and Haifa districts will be almost totally closed to new industrial development, especially plants which consume raw materials, water and energy. Industrial development in the northern region will be largely restricted to hi-tech industries and to industries which do not consume water.

    As economic links with neighboring countries deepen, some industries, especially labor and energy intensive industries, may be relocated. New industrial areas will largely be established in the south and north of the country and will be managed by site administrations which will be responsible for establishing infrastructure and supplying such services as sewage and solid waste disposal and nuisance prevention.

    Administrative Measures

    Alongside technological innovations, industrial ecology requires changes in the attitudes of planners, production personnel and industrialists. In Israel, industrialists initially opposed the introduction of environmental laws and regulations. As enforcement increased, they did the bare minimum to comply with the law, mainly through end-of-pipe treatment. Today, a change in perspective is slowly emerging. and industry itself is beginning to introduce new steps to make itself more efficient, less expensive and more environment-friendly. Industry has begun to realize that reduced emissions may actually save moneyin production expenses, in payments for waste disposal and in insurance costs. Moreover, an environmental perspective also prevents the intervention of government in the construction and operation of plants. The "polluter prevention pays principle" is slowly gaining entry into industrial thinking worldwide. With further growth in population and industrial production, the adoption of strategies such as Waste Reduction Always Pays (WRAP), which was adopted by large corporations such as 3M and Dow, will become more acceptable.

    Legal Measures

    In addition to statutory requirements for end-of-pipe treatment, legislation now requires environmental impact assessment for new industrial plants, review of the cumulative effect of the individual plant and the industrial zone on the environment, and measures for reducing cumulative impact. In addition, industry is being pressured to take responsibility for the product itself and not only for the waste it produces, and governments are beginning to transfer responsibility for environmental cleanup to the plants themselves.

    In Israel, new industrial plants or new industrial zones cannot be established without the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements or environmental reports. The "polluter pays" principle is being implemented largely as a result of legislative requirements, such as administrative levies on industrial facilities for the purpose of establishing monitoring systems or fees on disposable beverage containers in order to finance cleanups and promote education on cleanliness. It is expected that fines, levies and fees will continue to be imposed on industrial plants in order to increase the income available for environmental protection activities and to provide incentives for pollution reduction.

    Economic Measures

    While environmental policy has traditionally been implemented through legislation and enforcement (e.g. the command and control approach), new methods are now being introduced and developed to promote pollution prevention. One of the most effective is the use of economic measures, especially taxes and levies, to make pollution economically unfeasible. Sufficiently high emission taxes are expected to bring about changes in production processes, to reduce emissions and to promote recycling and reuse. Taxes can also encourage the purchase of environment-friendly materials such as lead-free fuel and recyclable beverage containers while reducing the use of certain pollutants. In Europe, the possibility of imposing "pollution taxes" is being reviewed concomitantly with the reduction of income and housing taxes. The International Standards Organization is preparing international standards for environmentally-sound industrial policy, such as ISO 14000, whose main objective is to prevent pollution and promote environmental management in industrial plants.

    Industry-Government Cooperation

    In the future, greater responsibility for sustainable industrial development will be imposed on industrialists themselves since they are best equipped to change industrial processes while keeping costs down. However, industrialists need guidelines on the scope of improvements required and on government policy. In the Netherlands, a model for such cooperation has been developing whereby government and industry sign joint covenants to achieve specific objectives in each industrial sector. Covenants are voluntary agreements with the status of binding contracts in civil law. The aim of the covenant is to guarantee that the environmental goals which are formulated in local and national legislation and in international agreements will be implemented according to an agreed timetable.

    Sustainable Industrial Development Policy

    To promote sustainable industrial development, the following steps should be taken:

    1. All economic decisions must be based on sustainable development principles.

    2. Decision makers should be motivated to base their decisions on criteria of sustainable development and not only on the promise of short term gains for immediate improvement in quality of life.

    3. The activities which contribute to sustainable development as well as those which counteract it should be defined, including data transfer and goal setting.

    4. A political "give and take" process should be initiated, especially with regard to present versus future needs.

    5. A clear policy which sets goals and promotes the necessary measures to achieve these goals at all levels of society should be prepared.

    A sustainable development policy should include the following components:

    1. Setting of goals in a government declaration of intent on the need to implement sustainable development for industry.

    2. Defining implementation strategies for goal achievement in industry.

    3. Quantifying the measures for the monitoring of progress.

    4. Establishing quantitative and administrative goals.

    5. Identifying the bodies which will be responsible for goal achievement.

    6. Establishing criteria and guidelines for reviewing accumulated data.

    Organizational Structure

    As stated, the Netherlands was one of the first nations to implement steps for sustainable development in the industrial sector. Its National Environmental Policy Plan includes a sophisticated target group management system to analyse and implement policies together with target groups like industry, agriculture, energy, etc. The process included the setting of specific targets for emission reductions, the definition of the sectors to be accorded priority, preparation of joint declarations between government and industrial sectors which specify policy, functions, goals and implementation measures, preparation of information campaigns, preparation of covenants or guidelines for goal achievement , and introduction of pollution prevention measures in each plant along with systems for progress monitoring.

    Other organizational means which may be undertaken include:

    1. Environmental auditing – an external auditor may be used to conduct an environmental audit of each plant.

    2. Green label – eco-labelling enables consumers to choose the preferred product.

    3. Publication of emission data – public pressure is created when plants are required to publish, on an annual basis, the exact quantities of chemicals which they emit to the environment.

    4. Education and information – these are especially important since the concept of sustainable development is still in its infancy. Means of Achieving Sustainable Industrial Development In order to achieve sustainable industrial development in the future, activities in a number of realms have to be undertaken now:

    1) Research: Basic and practical research are vital in order to better understand industry’s contribution to environmental pollution and the means which should be used to overcome environmental problems by means of sophisticated technologies.

    2) Information: Environmental data should be transferred to all decision makers in the industrial sector at all levels.

    3) Environmental problem analysis: Better use should be made of such tools as economic instruments, life cycle analysis of products, and technologies for pollution prevention and material recycling.

    4) Environmental policy: A clear environmental policy with specific goals and detailed timetables is required to attain the objectives. Such policy must take account of international constraints and of new economic thinking while integrating environmental policy with social, economic and political policy as it relates to industrial development.


    Agenda 21 which was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, determines, inter alia, that governments should adopt a national strategy for sustainable development. The challenge of reaching national agreement on Israel’s sustainable development goals is formidable. Israel has no choice but to meet the challenge. If it wishes to continue to grow and expand, Israeli industry would do well to adapt itself as quickly as possible to this new reality.