Israel Environment Bulletin Spring 1997-5757, Vol. 20, No. 2


Waste generation is an inescapable byproduct of human activity. A single solution to the manifold problems generated by the discharge of ever-increasing quantities of waste into the environment does not exist. The only long-term solution lies in an integrated system for solid waste management which includes, in order of priority, reduction, reuse, recycling, incineration and landfilling.

In Israel, the solid waste problem is especially grave as a result of three parallel trends which are unique to this country: population growth of over 2% annuallyhigher than any other developed country, rising standards of living and consumption patterns which have witnessed a concomitant rise in quantities of solid wastein the order of 2%-3% annually, and one of the highest population densities in the developed world630 people per square kilometer north of Beersheba with forecasts for 800 people per square kilometer by the year 2020. As availability of potential landfill sites is reduced (due to land scarcity, hydrological sensitivity and citizen opposition) and existing sites reach full capacity, landfill costs will necessarily rise and alternative solutions will be sought.

Solid Waste Survey

In order to provide a long-term view of solid waste management in Israel, data on the sources and composition of solid waste are required. For this purpose, a national survey on the composition of waste in Israel was conducted during an eight week period in the summer and winter of 1995. The results, when integrated with the results of previous surveys from 1975, 1983 and 1986, provide an up-to-date picture of the quantity and composition of solid waste in this country and form the basis for future forecasts. They will facilitate the formulation and implementation of more efficient method of solid waste disposal and treatment.

Following are the main findings of the survey as they relate to 1995:

– Each person in Israel generates an average of 1.14 kilograms of solid waste each day.

– The annual quantity of domestic waste generated in Israel is 2,288,550 tons.

– The average quantity of waste generated per person per day, including yard waste and construction and demolition waste but excluding industrial and commercial waste, is 1.73 kilograms.

– The annual quantity of municipal waste including yard waste and construction and demolition waste but excluding commercial waste is 3,473,000.

– The total quantity of solid waste including the business sector

(industry, commerce, services and institutions) is 4,697,500 tons per year or 2.34 kilograms per capita per day.

– The average volume of a kilogram of waste is 6.15 liter.

– The average density of waste is 162.7 kilograms/cubic meter.

– In percentage terms, the putrescent organic matter, which constitutes 37.81% of the total domestic waste, is the dominant component in the weight of waste.

– Plastic materials constitute the largest component of the waste in terms of volume34.49% of the total.

On the assumption that changes will not be introduced into Israel’s solid waste collection and recycling system and that population growth will continue at present levels, quantities of domestic waste in 2000 will reach 1.16 kilograms per person per day or a total of 2,625,080 per year.

These results highlight the urgent need to implement an integrated solid waste management policy in Israel.


Paradoxically, the success of integrated solid waste management which is aimed at reducing landfilling to a minimum depends on the introduction of regulated, state-of-the-art landfills which are carefully planned and operated to meet stringent environmental standards. Past practices in which solid waste was carelessly disposed in unauthorized dumps throughout the country at little or no cost left no incentives for the introduction of alternative treatment methods. This, in turn, led to a wide array of environmental nuisancesfrom the contamination of surface and groundwater to air pollution to aesthetic blight and loss of property value.

Today, this is no longer the case. Decisions taken in 1993 and 1994 by both the Israel government and by its highest planning body (the National Planning and Building Board), mandated the closure of most of the country’s unregulated garbage dumps and called for their replacement by five central landfills and 14 regional sites. At the same time, the decisions advocated the promotion of recycling and a review of incineration alternatives.

Of some 500 unauthorized dumps which operated in Israel in the beginning of the 1990s, more than half have been closed and many others have been substantially upgraded or improved. Nevertheless, several large dump sites remain, the most infamous of which is Hiriyaan eyesore in the middle of the most populated area of the country. This landfill, which services the Dan metropolitan region and receives over 3000 tons per day from Tel Aviv and 10 adjacent municipalities, is fast reaching capacity. Only recently, following protracted legal battles, have plans been finalized for the transfer of this waste to the Duda’im landfill, some 8 kilometers north of Beersheba. Duda’im should have been opened in December 1995, to coincide with Hiriya’s closure, but Beersheba residents vigorously opposed the scheme claiming that it would transform Beersheba into the "garbage capital of the Negev." The well-known NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome stalled progress for years despite assurances by the Ministry of the Environment that Duda’im, as well as the other landfills which are included in Israel’s National Outline Scheme for Solid Waste Disposal, will be operated according to stringent standards aimed at preventing environmental and health risks. These 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. According to the most recent decision of the National Planning and Building Board, Duda’im should begin operating in 1998 as a central landfill for a period of three years with an option for another three years. Concomitantly, Oron, a phosphate quarry in the center of the Negev, will be prepared to serve as a central landfill in the long run.


Incineration is a viable component of integrated municipal solid waste management strategies in many countries. This method not only reduces the volume of solid waste by as much as 90% but produces refuse-derived fuel (RDF). Its advantages include: reduction of the volume and mass of solid waste, neutralization of hazardous substances in the waste, energy recovery for heat and/or electricity, conservation of land resources and prevention of groundwater pollution. In line with government decisions calling for a review of the economic and environmental feasibility of waste to energy technologies, an interdisciplinary committee was set up. It concluded that solid waste incinerators should be established in Israel within a system of integrated solid waste management.

The Drom Yehuda Association of Towns for the Environment may be Israel’s first body to establish an incineration site for solid waste. The proposed plant, within the jurisdiction of the Ashdod-Yavne and Drom Yehuda Town Associations, will serve some 880,000 residents. It is slated to treat some 1200 tons of waste per day and to produce some 30 megawatts of electricity and/or to desalinate up to 15 million cubic meters per year of saline water which currently endangers groundwater quality. Environmental guidelines for the first part of an environmental impact statement which will review alternative sites were issued in the summer of 1996.

Similar plans are currently on the drawing board for another part of Israel. Ecoltech, a company which is jointly owned by Amnir Recycling Industries, Israel’s leading recycling plant, and CGC (Compagnie Generale de Chauffe), a French leader in waste to energy plants, is promoting a scheme slated to help solve the problem of about 300,000 tons of waste per year. The proposed project will see an expansion of Amnir’s Afula plant which collects waste from several local authorities with a population of 150,000. The facility, which began operating in 1989 for the purpose of separating and recycling waste components, is currently being prepared to produce refuse-derived fuel. As part of the same project, a waste to energy plant will be set up in Hadera and collection and transport of waste in the Netanyah area will be promoted.


In 1993, some 96% of Israel’s solid waste was landfilled in some 500 dumps. In 1996, recycling leaped from 4% to 20% of the total quantity of waste in Israel (940,262 tons) or 10.5% of post-consumer domestic waste (481,698 tons).

The reasons for this spurt in recycling include:

– The replacement of old dumps with alternative, more environment-friendly sites which are also more distant from population centers has increased the cost of waste transport and landfilling.

– New sorting and recycling plants which provide an alternative to landfilling were opened in recent years in the north of Israel. These include NAAM in Afula and Compost 2000 in Kiryat Bialik in the Haifa Bay area.

– Recycling technologies for different raw materials have been advanced.

– Local initiatives have witnessed the development of recycling facilities for various components of the waste stream.

Increased public awareness of environmental protection, in general, and of solid waste management, in particular, has made an impact:

– A survey of local recycling projects has revealed strong public support (about 80%) for separation at source for recycling purposes.

– Public opinion polls have revealed that the public views recycling as the method which least damages public health and the environment. 65% of those interviewed opted for recycling facilities in their area of residence as opposed to 11% who preferred landfilling and 5% who favored incineration.

– Over 50% expressed their readiness to separate waste at source into two streamswet and dry. A significant number expressed readiness to transport their garbage to a neighborhood recycling center or even a regional recycling center. 65% were ready to pay additional municipal taxes to be used for setting up recycling centers communities.

Recycling Facts and Figures

Paper and Cardboard: Some 700,000 tons of paper and cardboard are used in Israel each year of which 212,500 tons of paper waste are collected for recyclinga 30% recycling rate. About 66% of the country’s total paper and cardboard production originates in recycled paper. Paper and cardboard comprises 22% of the weight and 29% of the volume of Israel’s solid waste.

Tires: Some 1.5 million private cars and 500,000 other types of vehicles transverse Israel’s roads. Assuming that tires are changed once in four years, nearly 2 million tires are changed each year, weighing in at some 50,000 tons. About 4,100 tons of tires are currently renewed annuallyan 8.2% recycling rate.

Yard Waste: About 500,000 tons of yard waste, including brush, leaves, grass clippings and small trunks, are produced in Israel annually. The Ministry of the Environment has provided financial aid to local authorities for the purchase of about 20 choppers for yard waste. Some 7,000 tons of yard waste are currently chopped annuallyabout 14.8% of the total.

Used Oil: It is estimated that some 60,000 tons of oil are currently marketed in Israel for motor vehicle and industrial machine use. About 5-10% is burned, 15,000 cannot be recycled and 27,000 (45%) is recyclable. Some 9,000 tons of used oil are collected and recycled todaya rate of about 33%.

Glass: Annual consumption of glass stands at about 100,000 tons (of which 75% is manufactured in Israel by one company) with another 40,000 tons of flat glass. Only 8,850 tons per year (mostly industrial breakages) are currently recycleda 9% recycling rate.

Plastic: Total plastic consumption is about 450,000 tons per year. Plastic constitutes about 15% of the total weight of waste in Israel and 35% of its volume. The plastic industry recycles about 22,125 tons per yeara 4.9% recycling rate.

Organic Material (Compost): Organic material constitutes 40% of Israel’s domestic waste. Some 23,000 tons are recycled which are derived from 47,000 tons of organic mattera recycling rate of 4.9%.

Recommendations for the Short Term

Today, recycling constitutes the most readily available and most environment friendly waste treatment method. In order to further promote this solution in Israel, recommendations are being formulatedfrom provision of incentives for separation at source and recycling to promotion of green consumerism to legislation and enforcement.

Following are some short-term recommendations:

– Financial support and incentives to sorting and separation activities, especially into wet and dry streams, as well as to recycling centers, regional transfer and sorting centers and compost production facilities.

– Initial concentration on those geographical areas in which recycling projects already exist and where it is possible to complete the recycling cycle (e.g., Petah Tikva, NAAM, Compost 2000).

– Incentives for the establishment and expansion of recycling plants.

– Regulations requiring local authorities to meet waste reduction goals within set timetables. Local authorities will be free to decide on the type of waste reduction: reduction, recycling, separation at source, waste to energy production.

Recommendations for promoting recycling of specific raw materials include:

Scrap metal: publishing a new tender for the collection of scrap metal from central sites in local authorities and urging local authorities to participate in the tender.

Paper and cardboard: Mandating reduction of waste volume (e.g., cardboard compression) through the Licensing of Businesses Law and requiring use of recycled paper in government ministries and government and public companies.

Tires: Establishing lots for the collection of tire waste within the framework of the Licensing of Businesses Law and investigating the possibility of imposing a dedicated tax on producers and importers of tires within the framework of the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law to be used to help establish a tire collection and treatment system.

Yard Waste: Encouraging the main generators of yard waste to chop this waste and to find alternative uses for it and continued financial support to local authorities for the purchase of choppers.

Used Oil: Amending existing regulations on the disposal and treatment of used oil to include controlled burning of used mixed oil and increasing inspection of garages and plants which change oils.

Plastics: Reviewing means of preventing, restricting or controlling the import of plastic waste from abroad. Organic Matter: Encouraging local authorities to undertake separation at source into wet and dry streams where feasible.