The court’s verdict to a petition filed by a recycling company stated that the Environmental Protection Ministry did not meet its legal responsibility – and ordered it to establish a dedicated task force and change its policy

Zafrir Rinat. Jan 21, 2024 

Paper and cardboard recycling factory in Gan Yavne in central Israel, in 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The Environmental Protection Ministry has failed to enable competition among companies that collect packaging for recycling, a court ruled last week.

“The ministry effectively abandoned its responsibility,” Jerusalem District Court Judge Anat Singer wrote in her ruling. The ministry recently set up a task force to address the issue, and Singer ordered it to submit its conclusions by July.

Singer was ruling on a petition by Nataly, a company that wanted the ministry to authorize it to collect waste for recycling. The company had asked the ministry for such authorization – without which it can’t enter the recycling business – on four separate occasions, but was refused every time.

In each case, the main reason for refusing its application, which the ministry reiterated in court, was that regulatory changes had to be made before the industry could be opened to competition.

Recycling of paper and cardboard waste in Israel.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum 

Currently, the Tamir Packaging Recycling Corporation has a monopoly on this business. The company was set up with money from packaging importers and manufacturers, who are legally obligated to fund this service. 

The ministry said it feared that allowing competition without regulatory changes would lead to companies focusing on the most economically profitable locales or businesses in central Israel and ignoring less profitable locales or businesses. Currently, because only one company provides this service, the ministry can simply condition its license on collecting packaging for recycling nationwide.

But the Zalul environmental organization, in an amicus brief to the court, presented data showing that Tamir’s monopoly has actually undermined implementation of the law. It said that 40 percent of importers and manufacturers haven’t signed contracts with Tamir to collect their packaging, while the collection of packaging from households has been lower than expected. Consequently, the vast majority of packaging continues to be sent to landfills.

The ministry told the court that it recently set up a dedicated task force to consider the changes needed to open the industry to competition. But Singer pointed out that the ministry has theoretically been studying this issue for 10 years already, conduct she termed unreasonable.

Given the regulatory problem, Singer didn’t order the ministry to authorize Nataly to enter the field. But she did demand that it set a reasonable timetable for implementing the task force’s conclusions.

Zalul commented in response to the verdict that “the Environmental Protection Ministry has failed to implement the packaging law for over a decade. It must open the collection and recycling market to enable competition and immediately recognize additional recycling companies.”