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Generation of organic solid waste is rising everywhere in the Mediterranean region, due to population's increase and development of industry agriculture.

Summary of the International Conference on Recycling and Treatment of Organic Waste in the Agro-Tourism Sphere

Summary of the International Conference on Recycling and Treatment of Organic Waste in the Agro-Tourism Sphere

Sponsored by: Adam, Teva v’Din,  MIGAL Galilee Research Institute and the Upper Galilee Regional Council – 12 June 2014

The conference took place at Tel Hai Academic College, with 370 participants, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Ministry staff, representatives from regional authorities and environmental NGOs, consultants and experts in the field, and recycling and processing companies.

Among the exhibitors were Dolev, Koala and Argolan – companies that provide different solutions for waste separation and containers in a variety of colors, shapes and designs for use with organic waste.  There were also systems for treatment of organic materials, ranging from household to commercial to community applications, from a manual composter using simple mixing to electric and automated machines.  There were also exhibitors of a number of initiatives for recycling and reuse of different materials.  Local initiatives for municipal financial savings based on local treatment of organic materials on behalf of the Center for Neighborhood Sustainability. 


MK Amir Peretz – Minister of Environmental Protection

“We have no choice.  We must not stop this issue, because the revolution of separation at the source has implications on the culture and the way children and families relate to the environment in all its facets.  Society, environment and education go together and they cannot be separated.”

Amit Bracha, Adv. - Executive Director, Adam, Teva v’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense)

“The issue of organic waste on its own warrants a macro-national approach … that will include bringing together the knowledge and experience on this subject, a national information campaign and goals for the year 2020, all this in order to reach as broad a sphere of impact as possible regarding source-separated waste.”

Gilad Ostrovski – Director of Sustainability and Environment Division, Misgav Regional Council

“Separation of organic waste is the gate to sustainability, and without that step, it will be hard to do anything else.”
A national picture according to a survey of organic waste separation in the regional councils;  interesting results showing mixed trends; for the first time there is a small increase in the number of regions that are actually separating organic waste as of June 2014, just before the addition of new regions that will join during the year. 
A 60% rise in the number of waste-separating households: 304,000 households in total.  The largest participation is in cities. 
A 30% increase in the amount of organic waste collected at the source, 32 tons per year.  Even we have passed 30,000 tons of organic waste, in fact, this is not a lot, and furthermore, this figure does not include non-organic residues that could comprise 30%.
In spite of the rise in the number of separating households and the amount of overall separated organic waste, the amount of organic waste collected per household decreased by 21% and stands at 103 Kilos per year.  This can be explained on the basis of a statistical calculation that takes into account new participants over the year, even if they participated only partially.  In addition, there are households that started the process and then dropped out.  Furthermore there is a process to confirm the data that was received from the survey and it is difficult to collect data on the issue of waste.
The average percentage of organic waste collected out of total created organic waste stands at 24%, this figure should be noted, and efforts should be made to increase the rate of what is collected, one of the targets is commercial organic waste.
The quality of separation that is reported is generally good to very good, although these are just assessments. 
Insights and recommendations:

Information campaigns – this effort should be continued in order to improve the quality of separation and reduce the non-organic residues in the organic stream.

Commercial organic waste – quality organic waste in quantities that are equal to those of entire neighborhoods

Household and neighborhood composters – should be encouraged and supported in order to strengthen the process, reinforce the current life span of participation; most households in Misgav recycle with a composter. 

Information – Collection and sharing of information between the various organizations.

Mr. Martin Heibel – ENPI CBC Med Programme

Running the SCOW project in the Mediterranean region between 12 countries raises many challenges for carrying out the new policy of the European Union from 2007, where the Mediterranean region has so much cultural, economic and political diversity.  The plan is carried out in 95 projects of different types, from managing waste to water and energy.  Israel is a key player in the program, based on its authorities and research institutions. 

Mr. Francisco Cardenas – BCNecologia and SCOW Project Manager, Barcolona

Coping with global warming through reduction of organic waste landfill, and different approaches to reuse and treatment of organic waste.

Gemma Nohales – Technical Manager of the SCOW project in Spain

The goal of the project is to develop models that are inexpensive, simple and high quality for collecting and recycling organic waste in tourism and agricultural areas.  For applying organic waste management using innovative and sustainable systems, through efficient collection and treatment of organic waste using small devices in close proximity to the source of the waste production. 
Organic waste represents the most important and problematic waste stream, and for this reason, when we do source separation we can better take advantage of the different types of waste, particularly as organic waste contains a higher carbon level than the ground requires. 
Sharing information is the basis for development and thus the results of the research and the projects can be found on the program’s website.

Prof. Dan Levanon – Researcher, MIGAL

The main goals of the project are the treatment of waste in the agricultural and tourism areas in the periphery. Separation at the source, organic waste transport and treatment. In each of the regions there is a different model for separation, collection, treatment and use of compost. The role of the project management is to examine the data, the legislation and the initiatives to create  work plan that will be applied in the Mediterranean region. The MIGAL research institute has been operating in Kiryat Shemona for 35 years - its research fields cover life in the broadest sense of the word.

Michael Giovani – member of S.R.A. Italy, on behalf of Mr. Marco Ricci Juhrgensen

Organic waste treatment is the basis of managing MSW, and unsuccessful treatment of organic waste is a severe hazard, causing between 3-11% of trapped greenhouse gasses.  Today more than 70% of the population lives in cities, and in the near future 95% will live in cities.  In Europe there was no regulation obligating organic waste treatment and thus several systems of treatment were developed.  Organic waste is classified as the waste flow that includes landscaping and garden waste and food scraps.  The legislation should be adjusted to reality in order to provide waste producers with an incentive to treat it and not just ignore it or pass on the responsibility for its treatment, the landfill fee in England is so high that it is cheaper for them to send their waste to Scandinavian countries. We should make it easier for households that separate at the source, with aerated composters and biodegradable bags that make waste separation more pleasant.  Door to door explanation campaigns are much more effective in instilling the approach to source separation.
R5 approach – reduction, re-use, recycling , decay and renewal

Giora Zaltz – Head, Upper Galilee Regional Council

“We understand that preservation of nature and the environment are not just slogans or a subject to study in schools, but a true need, and a significant part of everyday life.”
The regional council covers 300,000 dunams, 18,500 population, 29 communities, 29 schools, one landfill site (that is about to be closed), and no end sites for organic waste!
In the regional council, separation is done into three streams – packaging, organic and mixed. The organic is collected in the communities, treated outside of the regional council, and is brought back for agricultural use, landscaping or use by the residents. 
We started in a process to distribute 15 community composters, which will start in August 2014, over 3 years.  Use of community composters is on the basis of the SCOW model.
The explanation campaign will be based on local citizens who will be trained for this purpose, and will also rely heavily on the internet, applications, and through the schools (funding problems can be resolved).
A single community composter can treat up to 20 tons a month.
The production cost is 350,000 NIS per unit plus a special truck for collection, at 850,000 NIS.


  • Creating waste removal stations that are accessible, available, clean and easy to operate.
  • Explanation and integration

Michael Giovani – Member of ARS, Italy –Success stories of waste separation from other parts of the world

By 2050, almost 95% of the population will live in cities, even though the conference is addressing remote and tourism regions yet in fact, most of the population will live in cities and we need to find a solution for this trend. 
In Italy, 4 million tons of organic waste are treated in 250 compost installations, where the main stream to these sites is food scraps and landscaping waste.
In Milano, with a population of 1.3 million, 90 kilos per person, a small ventilated container as the base (L7), a medium-sized container (L30) and a central container for removal (L120), removal twice a week.  Rate of non-organic residue is less than 5%. All of the waste is treated at an anaerobic plant for producing electricity.
In San Francisco, with 850,000 citizens, 1.35 million commuters, 123 kilos organic waste per person per year, separation into three streams.  Great difficulty in instilling the policy because of the high rate of foreigners in the city.  
In Dhaka, with an estimated population of 14 million citizens, the content of organic waste is high, 67%, collection is done by rickshaws, at about 60%, at this rate the organic waste per person per year is about 83 kilos in response to a rise in the landfill fee. Waste treatment is performed through different systems and at different scales in accordance with local needs using local composting.
(Compiler’s Note: In Israel the data relates to amount per household and not per person)
Rural areas – Household composting is not sufficient, collection of organic waste by a multi-function truck saves costs (mainly transportation).

Ramon Plana – International Consultant on Composting – Organic waste at tourism sites

Experience from projects in Spain:
The projects are divided into two:

  • Collection – organic waste contains 70% moisture, and organic waste degrades very quickly. In fact, transporting organic waste should be related to like transporting water and should be done at specific intervals in order to prevent environmental hazards such as smell, flies and attracting animals.
  • Treatment – it’s very easy to treat organic waste through composting if it is properly separated from non-organic materials.  Planning of an end site installation for composting must take into account large quantities of organic waste, and the installation should be able to take in amounts of waste that are higher than usual in accordance with the maximum annual amount (holiday periods).  The installation must assure optimal conditions for treating waste throughout the entire process.

Project management in remote areas:

  • Communities that are isolated and far from one another
  • Poor communication
  • Seasonality in producing waste related to waves of tourism

Collecting organic waste is costly, yet installations for local treatment can break down during high tourist seasons, and a regional installation should be reconsidered.  The amount of organic waste can be doubled in the tourist season (summer months).  If full separation between organic and other waste can be achieved, the frequency that the dry waste should be collected can be reduced, and the treatment of organic waste can be done locally.
Planning for camping sites includes complete waste separation, establishing compost and treatment installations for landscaping waste and food scraps, and separation sites for the rest of the streams.  Less frequent collection for the dry streams, training workers, informational advertising at the site about environmental activities, and improving the visitor experience. 
Currently, camping sites produce compost and save 20% of the cost of the compost through use at the camping site. 


  • Quality of separation is insufficient
  • Difficulty in getting workers accustomed to the new format
  • Seasonality of the site reduces composting efficiency
  • Lack of support by regional authorities


  • No problems of smell, flies or other complaints
  • Local treatment of food scraps and landscaping waste
  • Local use of compost that is produced
  • Exposure of the initiative to tourists

Francisco Gero – Deputy Manager of the Residues Agency of Catalunya

Catalunya - 32,000 square kilometers, 7.5 million population, 946 regional authorities in 41 regions.
The Residues Agency is a public company that treats commercial, municipal, construction and agricultural wastes, and wastewater.
Waste management in Catalunya has been introduced over the past years through legislative tools, budget allocations and establishment and staffing of this organization.
Over the last few years there has been a fundamental change in approach.  Currently it is understood that the amount of waste must be reduced, and that the waste itself is a resource that needs to be managed.  Urban waste is composed mainly of organic waste, and first of all the quantity needs to be reduced, but the waste that is produced needs to be separated into the different streams. The separated waste should be collected for re-use as much as possible, and the mixed waste can be burned for energy, to prevent its being used for landfill.
The treatment installations should be adjusted to accommodate the expected amounts and enable the optimal management of end solutions that produce quality end products. 
The cost of compost treatment is higher than the landfill fee and thus landfill taxes should be added to encourage compost treatment and different treatments that are more environmentally sound than landfilling. In 2004 they started the landfill fees. In 2008 they started a system for tax refunds for source separated waste, devised from a calculation of the cost of waste treatment, factoring in the amount of collection, quality of separation and characteristics of the region (urban, peripheral).  As such, a regional authority that has not joined the waste separation plan raises its taxes by an additional 10 Euros per ton while a regional authority that achieves a high quality of separation can achieve refunds of 40 Euros per ton.
The goal is to collect 60% of the waste that is produced by 2020.  Separating organic waste is possible in the Mediterranean countries.  Adopting the landfill fee and tax on waste treatment are essential steps for developing organic waste recycling.  The ongoing estimation of the quality of collection and separation is an important tool for improving the system.  Use of taxation according to quality significantly contributed to the quality of the separation.  Combining the landfill fee and tax for treatment enables the environmental costs of the waste to be factored in.  If the tax revenues are used properly, it will lead to a fundamental change in the direction of ecological management of waste.  Success in the process of separation and management of waste will enable us to reach the goals of the European Directive, prevention of waste of resources with economic value and assisting the labor market.

Haim Zarbiv – Director, ELA Recycling Corporation

ELA has been operating for 4 years to promote recycling of family-sized bottles and beverage containers in Israel.   In 2013 50.6% of family-sized plastic bottles were recycled, in addition to bottles with refundable deposits that have been collected and recycled since 2011.  This prevented the landfill disposal of 15,000 tons of plastic bottles - 350 million bottles.  This was achieved through a major informational campaign effort, education and over 20,000 recycling sites across the country.  Some 1000 schools work with ELA, through collection and recycling to collect the deposit money and other gifts to encourage environmental awareness.  In the last decade ELA saved on the need to dispose of 5.5 Billion beverage containers.  Over 360 communities have recycling sites.

Rani Idan – Head, Emek Hefer Regional Council

Area: 130,000 dunams, 40,000 population, kibbutzim, rural and urban community settlements.  Significant agricultural areas. Divided into 41 communities, 90 schools, businesses and the majority of farmers.
Separation planned into 12 streams, but currently into organic, packaging, paper, plastic and mixed.
The true force that enables significant quality and quantity of separation – volunteers!
Information dissemination is done through advertising, monitoring and updating, 2-3 times since the start of the project.
500 tons of organic waste was collected in a month, and 540 tons of landscaping waste.
A quarter of the household organic waste, together with the waste from dairy and poultry farms, produces 4 Million NIS worth of electricity.
Problems and challenges:

  • Difficulty engaging youth in the separation process, high schools and youth movements
  • Shortage of end point solutions and the existence of a price-setting cartel among the treatment sites, high costs of transport and treatment
  • Interim long-term financing of the regional council until receiving budgets for assistance from the Ministry
  • Delays in approval of the recycling law by the Ministry of Justice
  • Inability to save on costs (in accordance with initial plans) because of the price cartel of the end point installations.

Ron Shani – Head of Misgav Regional Council

Area: 170,000 dunams, 27,000 population, 35 communities, kibbutzim, moshavim and Bedouin communities (30% of the population)
The separation system is based on training the training staff, an operational plan and courses for those who are active in the program. The informational process operates in all channels before, during and after the start of separation. Advertising and information dissemination are done through signage, emails and door-to-door, training in classrooms and in kindergartens and in joint school projects.  There is a project management organization, staff, coordinators and training staff that work with the environmental protection committees, the spokesperson’s office and the youth committees in the regional council.
To date 4000 household containers for the kitchen have been distributed, 1700 brown containers for collection and 3,500 composters.
1,300 tons of organic waste is separated each year at a high quality, a survey of the mixed waste content found food scrap made up 28% only.
The regional council owns and operates an end-site installation, an installation for local compost, with another one under construction.
The establishment cost was 1085 NIS per household.
Cost for treatment of 1 ton of organic waste from a brown container 515 NIS
Cost for treatment of 1 ton for landfill 600 NIS
Cost for treatment of 1 ton from the composter (training and maintenance) 100 NIS
Resources must be made available over time for management and monitoring.

Anat Levingart – Head of the agroecology and field crop branch in the Ministry of Agriculture – Treatment and use of compost

Multi-purpose agriculture – plants and animals
The amount of water available in Israel supports agriculture with irrigation on just 50% of the land
Agriculture in Israel takes in different residual products:

  • Waste water sludge
  • Residual sludge from anaerobic fermentation
  • Animal manure – with different levels of treatment, from raw manure from animal yards to processed manure after composting
  • Compost from urban garbage
  • Effluents – Moshav water, salt water and runoff water

All of these residual products are implemented at the same location.
There is a need to synchronize between the players in order to meet agriculture’s limited capacity.
Israeli agriculture can accommodate the compost back into the land, although not every crop can support the cost of the compost.

Massimo Santmaro – Technical Manger of the Italian Compost Organization - Use of compost as a replacement for chemical fertilizer

75% of the area of south Europe is designated as having a low content (3.4%>) to extremely low (1.7%>) of organic material in the soil.  Organic material content lower than 1% is not sustaining.  16% of Europe’s land is damaged through some type of degradation and reduction in the quality of the land.
Compost with earth and fertilizing qualities that supports field crops and greenhouse crops, Its value ranges between the value of peat and animal manure. Its capacity to moderately release nitrogen protects the nitrogen over time.  Compost provides organic fertilizer, and reclaims land and crop beds.

Attorney Asaf Rosenblum, Head of the Legal Department, Adam, Teva v’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense)

The commercial sector is responsible for a huge quantity of waste, which could be separated relatively easily, and at a low cost, to create a steady stream of high quality organic waste.  One of the benefits of separating waste in the commercial sector is the reduction of waste through directing food to the needy even before it is discarded. 
According to a survey conducted by Adam, Teva v’Din, hotels represent the largest producers of waste, 110 tons per year on average per hotel, supermarket chains produce an average of 70 tons of waste per year per branch, and institutional kitchens produce 50 tons per year, and restaurants, 15 tons per year.  The implication of these statistics on a national level, under the limitations of the data as they are described at the conference, shows that the stores and hotels alone produce close to 100,000 tons each year from only 1200 sites. This data illustrates the tremendous potential in the commercial sector, where over 300,000 households that separate waste succeed in separating only about 30,000 tons.
The subject needs to be further studied and in parallel, to promote regulation and legislation.

Gidi Karuch, Head, Leket Israel

The goal of Leket Israel is to save food before it is thrown into the garbage. Leket is active in over 200 sites across the country, not depending only on volunteers, today working more with institutions, hotels and catering companies.  Connecting between non-profits and food sites.  In 2013 Leket was able to save over a million meals (a serving of protein and two side portions). In most cases no more than 12 hours pass from the time the food is collected until it is served. Leket is a member of the world food bank (GFN), and they carefully monitor the safety of the food according to all the storage, refrigeration and cooking guidelines. 
The reason for the quantities of surplus food is the contractor agreements with food suppliers which guarantee a certain amount that isn’t always needed. Another reason is the turnover in management which increases the margin of error in managing food production.
The most significant obstacle is the suspicion of food producers regarding liability over the food that will be produced, and they are skeptical of the organization’s ability to manage the system of collection, treatment and delivery of food in a proper manner.  Even though Leket Israel provides a legal indemnification document that releases the donor from any responsibility, which meets international standards.  It is possible to include laws from outside of Israel to resolve this obstacle, i.e. the Good Samaritan Law, which releases the producer of any responsibility as long as he operated according to existing regulations.
An additional obstacle is the operational costs and the lack of support and direction from the government.

Adi Cohen – A.C. Shiboleth

A company involved in recycling waste from the cow and animal feed industry, barley from the beer fermenting process, waste from dairy products in returned packages, sub-quality market vegetables.  In Israel 400,000 tons of waste from silage is recycled every year.  The process is strictly controlled because the silage is very precisely mixed.  The waste is purchased by the factory from different industries. A serious obstacle is the availability of waste, as a large quantities and minimal levels of freshness are required in order for it to be worthwhile.

Ronit Shachar – Head of Environmental Quality, Strauss Israel

The company first of all promotes the prevention of waste production at the source, which is more economical. Strauss has 9 factories using different technologies and treatment methods. The main waste product produced by the dairy is whey, which must be removed on a daily basis. One channel is to the cows (independently through the networks). Another channel is the anaerobic installation for producing gas.  In the candies factory, waste materials are used for animal feed.
Strauss also has a vision to achieve zero-waste, but today they are still far from it.  In order to reach it they need to invest in production lines that are very, very efficient and do not currently meet the cost/benefit test.  In small and medium-sized factories, there isn’t enough waste for the recycling suppliers to cooperate with them.  An additional obstacle is that the manufacturer is legally responsibility for the waste they produce in their factories and thus during the entire process of waste recycling the manufacturer is responsible.

Gidi Ostrovsky – Head of the environment and sustainability department in the Misgav Regional Council

The vision of source separation is correct and obligatory, there are no installations that are able to separate waste in massive quantities.  The mechanism of “calls for submissions” creates great difficulty for the regional councils, operational flexibility is needed in the authorities from the Ministry. There is no desire to rob public funds, the authority is asked to cope with unexpected challenges.  An answer is needed in real time from the Ministry for the problems that arise. 
During the last decade a number of important environmental laws have passed, the Ministry needs to be more assertive in enforcing them, and the packaging law in particular.

David Lapler – Director, Ministry of Environmental Quality

Since the establishment of end-site installations requires more regulation and standards there is a need to synchronize between source separation and between establishment of end-sites, a number of regional councils reported that transfer facilities take the same amount for separated waste as for mixed.
The large cities are slowly entering, but they are indeed entering, the Ministry is interested in promoting the recycling revolution with reduction of the discrepancies between the center and the peripheries in waste treatment, there are communities that still don’t have waste collection at all.  Source separation is not just a technological means, but it is also an educational measure.