Israel up to eyebrows in trash as nation’s garbage problem grows

Israel has one of the highest rates of waste dumping with little recycling. The coronavirus pandemic is only making it worse.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel has a garbage problem and it’s only getting worse, the environment minister admitted, calling the situation a “complete catastrophe.”

Israel produced 5.7 million tons of household waste last year, 200,000 tons more than the previous year and 80 percent of that waste is buried in landfill sites causing soil pollution and the emission of toxic gases, Channel 12 reported Wednesday.

Only 20 percent of trash in Israel is recycled, exactly the opposite of the European Union where 80 percent of garbage is reused.

Every four minutes on average, a garbage truck dumps its load – more than 400 times a day – with half of all the garbage in Israel ending up in a desert landfill site, apparently the largest garbage site in the Middle East, the report said.

“The State of Israel has invested billions and yet the whole issue of waste management is one big failure. It is very sad to see the situation here in Israel. The [Israeli] indices versus the international indices are just a complete catastrophe,”said Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel.

The chairwoman of the Knesset Environmental Protection Committee, MK Miki Haimovich, explained that there is a need for constant information to educate the public.

“We need a campaign, all the time, all year round. We need growing awareness and … we also need enforcement,” Haimovich said.

A surprisingly high 18 percent of waste in Israel contains non-recycled plastic. The coronavirus pandemic and the fear of contaminated surfaces only increased the use of disposable utensils and also stopped the few initiatives to part with the use of plastic.

The report noted that recycling bins have only been distributed to half of the country and the materials that get put into them are often not recyclable, making it difficult work for sorting stations to filter out what can be recycled from what cannot.

Even more problematic is that Israel’s existing infrastructure lags far behind what is already considered standard practice in the world.

“The horror scenario is that there will be no place for landfills,” said Rani Eidler, CEO of the Tamir packaging recycling corporation.

Experts say the only real solution is to change the consumption habits of 9.2 million Israeli consumers, who last year alone tossed 5 billion disposable cups into the trash, twice as much as in the previous decade.

However, the report noted that there are also successes, with the new law forcing consumers to pay for plastic shopping bags in supermarket resulting in an 80 percent reduction in their use, a saving of 7,000 tons of garbage each year.