Last week Israel's Minister for Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg and Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Energy Karine Elharrar declared that Israel would cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. This is undoubtedly an ambitious target but in order for Israel to achieve this, immediate actions are required.
Through the ministers' declarations, Israel has joined a range of countries that already understand that it is no longer sufficient to focus on reducing carbon dioxide but steps must also be taken to reduce methane gas. Methane gas, which is also called 'carbon dioxide on steroids' causes one third of global warming, according to a report published two months ago by the Inter-Ministerial Panel for Climate Change. It turns out that even though we are producing much more carbon dioxide to pollute the air, over a period of 20 years, a ton of methane gas causes 84 times the amount of global warming than carbon dioxide.
One of the main sources of methane emissions is the burial of organic waste. Most of this waste, about 80% currently in Israel, is buried compared with just 20% in Europe. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, about 77% of methane emissions in Israel are caused by the burial of organic waste.
So what has been done so far to solve the problem? In European countries, already in 2018 regulations were put in place requiring separation at source of organic waste in all EU member states by 2023. It was also determined that within a few years, biological treatment of organic waste would not be considered as recycling, unless the waste is separated at source and the treated waste is sent for burial or burning, which would not be considered as recycling. This trend strengthens the obligation and responsibility of countries to recycle organic waste and make recycled use of it as energy or fertilizers. Thus, of course, there are economic advantages expressed in savings as a result of producing a source of renewable alternative energy and natural fertilizer, as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.
In Israel people are beginning to realize that this is what has been happening in Europe for some years. Last December, the Ministry for Environmental Protection published an ambitious strategic plan to switch Israel from a linear economy to a circular economy. A linear economy makes use of wasteful resources in the production process and as a result environmentally polluting waste is created. On the other hand, a circular economy makes smart use of resources and reduces waste production through smart planning and design of products, using business innovative models to reduce use of new resources by reusing and recycling.
There may be positive news in this strategy, but I think that it is only through regulation requiring cooperation that we will be able to see these targets achieved. The strategy and targets defined are ambitious but by themselves are not enough. There are many companies providing innovative technological solutions that treat the problem although only by combining forces and creative cooperation with the local authorities in Israel will we see a real change in the process for altering the treatment of existing waste.
In addition, in order to ensure efficiency in treating waste, as well as in increasing the economic benefits, I think that it is up to the government to require a maximum restricted distance for transporting waste to treatment facilities and to prioritize and create incentives for adopting and applying local solutions for treating waste. Accordingly, one of the guiding principles in the waste strategy of the Ministry is to use local solutions for treating waste, which produce substantial economic and environmental savings. The costs of conveying and transporting the waste to treatment facilities are a major component of the significant costs in the system for treating waste, amounting to about 50% of the costs of treating the waste and these are subject to environmental pollution. Thus the solutions offering local treatment of organic waste, save economic and environmental costs as a result of conveying the waste, and create economic benefits from using methane for energy and additional benefits by producing quality fertilizer for agricultural use.
Solutions of this kind are the realization of the circular economy - taking waste and converting it into a resource. These are two tangible examples of how good it would be if the declared political targets overseas were backed up by regulations and plans for action that could be implemented.
The author is Yamit Naftali, Business and Strategic Development Manager, HomeBioGas
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 27, 2021.
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