New bill would enable ministry to help weaker local authorities establish waste infrastructure, evacuate hazards from their midst.

The Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee approved a bill for the Knesset’s second and third (final) readings on Wednesday that would temporarily amend the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law, enabling the Environmental Protection Ministry to help weaker local authorities establish waste infrastructure and evacuate hazards from their midst.

If the bill becomes law, it will enable the establishment of a Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund, which will be headed by the Environmental Protection Ministry director-general and will serve local authorities that are in clusters 1 to 4 of the Central Bureau of Statistic’s socioeconomic rankings, the committee spokesman explained.

Through the fund, the director-general will arrange for necessary handling of waste, implementation of waste infrastructure and evacuation of hazardous trash from these authorities for a period not exceeding one year.

“I decided to make communities with the most difficult environmental situations a first priority,” Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said. “It is much easier to instill a culture of waste separation and transformation of raw materials into the awareness of strong populations in Israel, but the real test is to implement this in weak and remote populations.”

The Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund will acquire its funding from landfill levies paid by the operators of the country’s waste sites, and this money is meant to be used primarily toward the construction and optimization of alternative waste disposal means that reduce environmental impact, in comparison to landfills, according to the committee spokesman. In the past, the fund has been used for other purposes prescribed in the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law, as long as such usages did not exceed 25 percent of the landfill levies received that year. If approved in the Knesset plenary, the new bill, however, will allow for the usage of up to 35 percent of these levies for other purposes such as helping underserved populations with waste management.

During the committee session, Peretz explained that since entering his position, he has been concerned about the lack of basic needs such as waste infrastructure in weaker communities, and he stressed that this legislation will particularly help the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors and prevent dangerous acts such as burning trash. If approved in the plenary, the budget allocated from the fund to supplying these missing services and to providing basic education on the subject will amount to about NIS 1 million, the Environmental Protection Ministry said. The new amendment would be enforced for five years, the ministry added.

“Unfortunately, there is still a situation of populations functioning as third world, in which waste is not transformed but is burned at residences – and the pollution is not small, but increasing,” Pertez said.

“Today’s decision will enable us to provide the resources to assist in purchasing equipment and bringing the underserved populations into the whole chain of waste treatment from separation to recycling.”