As the world continues to anticipate the outcomes and recovery from COVID-19, industries in Israel move ahead with the support of the government to identify more resource-efficient production methods. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israel Resource Efficiency Center (IREC) sustained and expanded its support to industries looking for more resource-efficient production models. The initial plan for 2020 anticipated to assist 20 factories, but only one month after the center began operations, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. As a response, the IREC received 8.3 million shekels (approx. 2.1 million euro) additional funding and succeeded in assisting more than 60 factories, three times more as much as the original plan.
“The crisis sharpened the urgent need for Israeli industry to get more efficient, and has created a significant increase in the demand for assistance for the center to deliver,” says David Asaf, Head of the Environment and Cleantech Division from the Ministry of Economy and Industry.
Funded by the Ministries of Economy and Industry, Environmental Protection, and Finance, the IREC was established in 2020 as an outcome of the EU-funded SwitchMed/MED TEST II project. The center targets Israeli industries to become more efficient both in economic and environmental terms by focusing on more efficient use of raw materials, water, and energy.
“Increasing the factory’s profitability while minimizing its environmental impact is a win-win situation for both the factory and the environment,” says Adi Dishon, CEO of the IREC. “By applying resource-efficient production methods, factories improve their competitiveness and mitigate influences of the volatility of prices of resources and energy.”
From 2014-2018, the MED TEST II project in Israel, led by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), demonstrated the potential of shifting to a more resource-efficient production in seven factories, across different industries, identifying solutions that save more than 8.5 million shekels per year (approx. 2.2 million euro). According to IREC, the costs of raw materials can range between 50-80 per cent of the total cost of production. Therefore a more efficient usage of resources would directly impact the factory’s economic performance. In addition, the methodology of applying resource-efficient management practices often identifies the root causes of emissions, preventing them from happening in the first place and helps setting up an internal system for continuous improvement.
“Following the huge demand for the centers’ services our target for 2021 is to assist 80 factories. As a result of the COVID-19, many factories are dealing with issues concerning stock and warehouses, which if not dealt with from the root cause by reduction at the source, will lead to loss of raw material, overproduction and create the need for landfilling or disposal. Top this up with the soaring prices of raw materials globally; COVID-19 is an opportunity for efficiency measures that cannot be overlooked by managements.” says Adi Dishon, CEO of the IREC.
As Israel entered the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010, new policies that can move industries to perform in line with OECD environmental standards and efficiency benchmarks have been introduced. The practical approach to improving economic performance while introducing good environmental management practices to industrial businesses convinced the Government of Israel to include resource-efficiency as one of the cornerstones of the Israeli National action plan for the circular economy in the industry.
“Finding an approach that can tackle the climate crisis while supporting businesses in post-COVID-19 recovery efforts will inevitably be multifaceted,” says Roberta De Palma, Chief Technical Advisor UNIDO. “The engagement and support from Israel on applying resource-efficient concepts, which make industries and products more competitive, can provide a significant reference value for the region on how to address some of our coming challenges.”
Since 2020, the successive EU-funded SwitchMed/MED TEST III project focuses on improving the circularity of the plastics value chain in Israel, tackling its technological and systemic challenges. This includes mapping the value chain for recycled plastics, developing guidelines for the design of recyclable plastic packaging, and introducing standards and policy incentives that can encourage industries to develop better recycling practices for plastic packaging in Israel.
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