Environment minister succeeds in keeping waste management fund in her office

Interior Ministry backs off effort to gain control of the reserve, which it argued would lead to improved synchronization between the fund and local authorities

In this March 13, 2018 photo, a tractor works at a landfill near the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Tzeelim in southern Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
In this March 13, 2018 photo, a tractor works at a landfill near the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Tzeelim in southern Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman announced on Friday that her office succeeded in maintaining control over a NIS 3.2 billion ($900 million) fund for waste management that the Interior Ministry had sought authority over.

Interior Ministry officials said the transfer of the Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund would lead to improved synchronization between the fund and the local authorities, for which it is responsible, and which are expected to construct recycling facilities in the coming years.

Environmental Protection Ministry officials, in turn, said that the Interior Ministry lacked the professional knowledge to manage Israel’s waste policy and made no attempt to discuss the matter before bringing it for a cabinet vote.

Silman said in a statement that she held negotiations with former Interior minister Aryeh Deri on the matter and that he agreed to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s continued control over the waste fund.

The statement suggested that Deri has continued to run at least part of his old office’s operations, even though the High Court of Justice had disqualified him from serving as a government minister due to his prior graft convictions.

Silman said she assured Deri that her office would work with the Interior Ministry to reduce landfill rates and increase recycling rates.

The money for the waste fund was included in the 2023-2024 budget that the cabinet approved on Friday.

Cranes lift waste, mostly plastic and paper, at the GreenNet recycling plant in Atarot industrial zone, north of Jerusalem, January 25, 2023. (Oded Balilty/AP)

The original plan to transfer the fund had been included in the coalition agreement that Deri’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party signed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in December.

The Interior Ministry’s effort came on the heels of the Finance Ministry’s attempts to weaken the Environmental Protection Ministry’s role in planning big infrastructure projects in fields such as energy and transportation.

Environmental Protection Ministry Director General Gideon Samet said the ministry’s responsibility for waste management ranged from regulation, supervision and enforcement to sharing professional knowledge and financial support for developers and local authorities working in the field.

Nobody in waste management thought that the Interior Ministry’s proposal was based on professional considerations, he charged, adding that if the Interior Ministry took over the cash, it would not be invested in national infrastructure, but in “other places,” whose connection with infrastructure was “unclear.”

The fund was established decades ago and is financed mainly by a levy on local authorities for the waste they send to landfill. This raises around NIS 500 million ($140 million) per year, providing the only source of money for reducing landfill, which currently emits eight to ten percent of the country’s global warming emissions, and establishing a recycling system nationwide.

A further NIS 40 million ($11.2 million) per year comes from a levy on plastic bags and is used to further reduce plastic bag use and to implement the Clean Air Act, while NIS 10 million ($2.8 million) is generated annually from various fines and court orders and is used for enforcement and prosecutions. A varying amount, which totaled NIS 40 million last year, comes from fining drinks companies that have not met their bottle collection and recycling targets. This is used to promote the bottle deposit law.

The fund is managed by a seven-member board — the Environmental Protection Ministry’s director general, who chairs meetings, two additional ministry officials, two Finance Ministry officials, and two representatives of the public nominated by the ministry — one representing local government, the other NGOs. Silman and Deri agreed Friday that the board would remain in its current form.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report

Most Popular
read more: