Environmental Protection Ministry Declares War on Waste Smuggling Over the Green Line

Illegal waste dumping site in a field in Hefer Valley, northern Israel, November 21, 2008. (Gili Yaari / Flash 90)
Illegal waste dumping site in a field in Hefer Valley, northern Israel, November 21, 2008. (Gili Yaari / Flash 90)

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry has declared war on Palestinian-Israeli gangs who are stealing the country’s garbage, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

Although at first, garbage theft might sound like a bizarre crime, the matter is actually quite serious, causing significant losses to industry and widespread environmental harm.

Illegal dumping of construction debris, agricultural waste, wood, hazardous and other materials over the Green Line has been a financial sore point with legal trash-disposal firms for years. Truck drivers and contractors who participate in the smuggling thus avoid paying legal sites for burying and recycling waste in Israel proper.

The ministry estimates that at least half of all construction debris in the country is discarded at illegal sites, many located near Yerushalayim and the villages of Na’alin, Shukba and Rantis in the Modi’in region.

But its not just a business concern. The pirate landfills poison both the soil and the water in these areas.

The air is also polluted as a result of smuggling. Israeli farmers are known to sell wood chips to middlemen who carry them over the border, after which the recipients burn the wood chips into charcoal.

Clouds of contaminated soot from these unregulated disposals waft into Palestinian villages and across the Green Line into Pardes Hanna, Binyamina and Zichron Yaakov, according to the Environment Ministry.

However, because the trash burning occurs in Area B, Israel has no authority to stop it once the waste gets there, the ministry explained.

The legal operators have pleaded with the Environmental Protection Ministry to do more to stop the smuggling, saying that otherwise it might force them to close down their businesses.

Four years ago, the IDF Central Command prohibited the transport of garbage over the Green Line without permission. The Environmental Protection Ministry and the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration were supposed to enforce this rule with the help of the security forces at the checkpoints, but these efforts proved inadequate.

“This week we begin a struggle without compromise against the insufferable ease with which the territories beyond the Green Line have become a city of refuge for environmental offenders,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “These offenders pollute indiscriminately and only due to greed, while all of the pollutants return like a boomerang to the state of Israel through water sources, predominantly by way of streams, and through air pollution, predominantly by way of soot.”

Beginning this week, the Ministry has assigned 10 specially-trained inspectors, with three more to be added later, to guard border crossing areas to intercept the massive waste transfers.

The inspectors are authorized to stop, delay and confiscate any illegal waste headed for Yehudah and Shomron.

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