Much of Israel's Plastic Waste Left to Pile Up as Authorities Have No Clear Recycling Policy
06:00 GMT 01.12.2021 (Updated: 17:24 GMT 15.01.2023)
Israelis use an average of 7.5 kilograms of single-use plastics per person every year, five times the amount used in the European Union, but only 24 percent of it is recycled. The rest is being dumped in landfills, something that has proven to be hazardous for both humans and the environment.
Israel is filling up with garbage. According to official data, the country produces 5.3 million tonnes of municipal and commercial waste per year, which is equivalent to 1.7 kilograms per person -- higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.
The majority of that waste comes from plastic, and estimates suggest that Israelis consume an average of 7.5 kilograms of single-use plastics per person a year, five times the amount used in the European Union.
Israel's Waste Mismanagement
But Caroline Wagner, a plastic campaigner at Greenpeace Israel, an organisation that is fighting to improve the country's environment, says Israel barely knows how to handle the problem.
Israel has multiple recycling facilities dispersed across the country, where consumers are asked to separate their garbage according to material. The country also has various bottle cages that collect plastic, and the idea is that this technique will make the recycling process much easier.
In reality, however, this has not been the case.
"We would all like to believe that the plastic waste that Israel produces is either efficiently recycled or disposed of correctly. Unfortunately, this is a myth, and Israel's current recycling rate stands at 24 percent," explained Wagner.
What happens to the rest of it? The expert says it is not really clear, primarily because Israel doesn't present the public with transparent information. Some of it is being exported abroad, where it is handled. Much of it is being chemically recycled, a process that is hazardous to both humans and the environment. And big chunks of it are heading directly to the landfill, where waste is left to pile up, in accordance with the "out of sight, out of mind principle," says Wagner.
Calling for Help
Various environment protection organisations, including Greenpeace Israel, have long been sounding the alarm, something that prompted Israel to come up with a number of new regulations.
In 2017, Israel introduced a plastic bag fee in a bid to discourage the public from using the hazardous material. More recently, authorities have introduced a tax on disposable utensils and they have also expanded the Deposit Law on Beverage Containers that allows consumers to return plastic bottles to supermarkets in exchange for a fee.
Wagner says these and other initiatives have been a blessing but more measures are needed to cope with the current crisis.
"Most recycling initiatives don't work because they are voluntary. Recycling is an energy and cost intensive process, and it requires a lot of efforts from Israelis to separate their material correctly."
One of the measures that Wagner is suggesting is a complete ban on plastic disposables. Another one, argues the expert, would be the need to educate the masses.
"Firstly, it is important to educate about what can be recycled and how. And, secondly, we need to work towards changing the behaviour of citizens. Continuous purchases do not [help] to tackle the waste crisis. We need to buy less and reuse or refill our products more often. And we also need to switch from a take-make-dispose approach to a reuse and refill culture."