For the first time in Israel, a prison sentence has been imposed Tuesday for violating waste disposal laws. The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court sentenced Alfonso Hasson to 60 days in jail for operating and managing an illegal waste transfer station in Bnei Brak.

Judge Shamai Becker said the crimes committed were grave and, based on the suffering they caused the public, were no less severe than crimes of drug dealing.

Last week Becker published his decision concerning the construction materials company Dor and Zuri, as well as Hasson. They were convicted of running the waste disposal transfer site without proper infrastructure and without obtaining a business license. They were also convicted of causing air pollution and transporting waste without a license. The transfer station operated for over two years.

Such illegal sites are characteristic of illegal construction waste disposal, of which there are many examples all over the country. Such sites operate without licenses and accept construction waste, which is later dumped in most cases in open areas or in illegal waste burial sites. Such illegal sites also cause damage to those operating legally, which receive less waste – and less money.

The judge said the story in this case was simple and well understood. He called it another illegal site in a city that can barely breathe – and continued to operate even after endless warnings, requests, pleadings and even a court order – yet all were ignored. The station continued spewing filth, dust, mountains of construction waste, bad smells and a possible seepage of waste into the groundwater, said the judge.

Hasson’s lawyers presented Becker with a medical opinion on his severe health problems, along with a positive report on Hasson from the probation service in the Social Affairs Ministry. But because of the severity with which Becker viewed the crimes, he decided not to take the opinions into account and imposed the precedent-setting sentence. Dor and Zuri was fined 500,000 shekels (about $144,000) and Hasson was also fined 200,000 shekels.

To emphasize how seriously he took the crimes, Becker compared them to drug offenses: “Every day drug dealers are sentenced, even the smallest ones, to prison terms, even for just a single gram of cocaine.” The judge said he did not want to minimize such crimes at all, just the opposite – but the question should be which crimes were more damaging to society and their surroundings? He said in the case of someone who sold a gram of cocaine or a dose of hashish to a person who came of their own initiative to buy a dangerous drug, the damage was specific to the person involved. But the case of an illegal waste site in the heart of a city, alongside a yeshiva and apartment buildings where women, children and the elderly are exposed to dust, odors and waste is worse – it is all for the profits of the owners and operators of the illegal site, said Becker.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said: “This is a clear message to environmental criminals.”