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February 19, 2015 1:56 pm

Sara Netanyahu Bottle Fracas Showcases Israel’s Leadership in Recycling, Says Green Nonprofit Chair

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avatar by David Daoud

Nechama Ronen says that Israelis are world leaders in recycling plastic bottles. PHOTO: Haaretz.

The fracas around allegations that Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, failed to return bottle deposits to state coffers is evidence of the popularity of recycling bottles in Israel, reports local website Walla. According to the Recycling Corporation ELA, which is responsible for the program, Israel is one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to recycling bottles.

“It makes me very happy to know that the Prime Minister’s house is a household that recycles,” said Nechama Ronen, the Corporation’s chairwoman. “One of the first places to undertake recycling was the household of former President Shimon Peres,” added Ronen, who next week intends to participate in Environment 2050, an eco conference to be held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. “We thought it would be good if the President would set the example for the rest of Israel’s citizens when it comes to recycling.”

According to ELA, in 2o14, Israelis recycled 80% of  bottles for which deposits are paid, a rate that rivals Great Britain and Italy, and approaches the rates in Scandinavian countries (90%). By contrast, a decade ago, the rate of recycling bottles for which deposits were paid in Israel was only 53%.

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Overall, in 2014, 59% of all plastic bottles – both those for which deposits were paid and those for which they weren’t – in Israel were recycled, a much higher rate than Europe (56%) or the United States (31%), according to manufacturers and recycling plants in the OECD-bodies and the United States.

According to Ronen, this success is attributable to advertising and awareness-raising campaigns. “In Europe, it took a 30-40 years for results to be borne out. Here, it occurred within a decade,” she says. “Israelis have internalized the value of recycling, not because of laws or oversight, but because they understood the importance of the matter. We were able to successfully instill these values in our children, making them the agents of change, and that was one of the reasons that the campaign itself featured children. We understood that where there would be a child recycling, the whole household would follow suit. And now, recycling is part of the school curriculum.”

Ronen added: “[I]n a small country like Israel, projects like this either succeed tremendously, or fail miserably. ELA succeeded in getting the message across to the public that the person who recycles is ‘cool’ and not a geek. Another message was comfort. Why let these bottles take up space in your garbage at home when you can dump them in the dedicated bins?”

In recent years, Israelis have also demonstrated increased awareness when it comes to recycling paper, with rates jumping from 25% to 40% in less than a decade.

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