Last bottle recycling factory to close unless government steps in

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    Israel’s only remaining recycling plant for plastic bottles, which won an industry prize, is reportedly set to close because it cannot compete with lower production costs overseas. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of bottles for recycling and in the number sent abroad, particularly to Turkey, for processing.

    Aviv Recycling Industries, a private family industry which has been operating for 25 years in the Negev, in southern Israel, is set to close soon, but efforts are underway to keep it running, the Marker financial daily reported Tuesday.

    The factory has already laid off 30 of its 70 workers, and workdays have been cut, the factory’s director, Yaron Mizrahi, told Army Radio recently.

    He said that unlike Israel, some states subsidized recycling operations. Low prices for oil — a raw material in plastic production — had driven the price of plastic down.

    Aviv reduces plastic bottles down to plastic flakes, which are sold to make goods such as disposable bags used in the sale of fruits and vegetables.

    The Ela Recycling Corporation, which collects used bottles and drink cans, has dropped the price of the bottles it sells to Aviv. Mizrahi said that reduced price is enabling the factory to continue operating three days a week.

    The Finance Ministry said it had offered to help by investing in improvements to the production line, but that the factory had rejected the offer.

    Mizrahi said the company had been in talks with government ministries for two years but that now “we’re done, we’ve reached the stage where we’re at the limit of our capacity.” The company was losing millions of shekels each year.

    But the crisis would pass if oil prices rose, he added. Furthermore, it would probably cost the government more to pay the laid-off workers unemployment benefits than to keep the factory going until the crisis was over.

    The company needed around NIS 2.5 million ($700,000) annually to weather the storm.

    Nehama Ronen, a former director general of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, who now chairs Ela, told Army Radio that as a result of oil price drops, recycled plastic costs virtually the same or more as items made from new raw material. Thus Israeli supermarkets could buy fruit and vegetable bags from Italy at a quarter of the price of recycled ones made by Aviv.

    “The whole point is to create a recycling industry in Israel and for that, you need support. You can’t pass laws [encouraging people to recycle] and then not support the local recycling industry,’ she said.

    “If Israel wants to save factories — and Yaron’s father was a real industry pioneer and was awarded an industry prize for this factory — then stop giving prizes and give support instead. The Environmental Protection Ministry’s cleanup fund has enough money and the ministry should be creative enough to find a way to give support.”

    Mizrahi said there was “political opposition” to releasing the cleanup fund money.

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