The first of January 2014 is expected to welcome us with varying degrees of New Year’s party hangovers, but will also bring along with it a new era of environmental legislation in Israel. The Law for Environmental Treatment of Electronic and Electric Equipment and Batteries-2012 (in short: the Electronic Waste Law) that is expected to enter into force this January introduces new and comprehensive liabilities regarding handling of electronic waste and batteries.

As a result, manufacturers, importers and distributors of electronic equipment and batteries will be required to meet collection and recycling targets, publish guidelines for the environmental treatment of the electronic waste and set up drop-off locations for the public to dispose of used electronic equipment. Indeed, these are major additions to the New Year resolutions list for numerous business corporations with activities in Israel.

The Electronic Waste Law joins the expanding club of new environmental laws and regulations in Israel which apply to products’ end-of-life stage. Similar laws enacted in recent years cover the recycling of bottles, cans, tyres and packages, and all carry a clear message: we are in the new age of extended producer (and importer and distributor) responsibility. Environmental regulation and environmental liability no longer cover merely the production of goods, but in fact continue to address all aspects of the product’s life, up to the point where the end-user disposes of the product and beyond – whether to environmentally safe re-use, recycling or as a last resort, disposal.

This liability is not theoretical. Over the course of the past year, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection imposed fines in the aggregate sum of over NIS 22 million (approximately USD 6 million) in connection with violations of the laws on the collection and recycling of bottles and packages. Failure to comply with Israeli environmental law also constitutes a criminal offence by the company and its managers and officers (and in some instances, also members of the board of directors). Additionally, apart from the monetary and criminal risks, corporate public image considerations also clearly exist.

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Companies that distribute their products within the Israeli market should be aware of these developments and become acquainted with the new regulatory environmental obligations. The implementation of the laws requires, in some cases, not only extensive administrative and logistic adjustments but also adoption of a new state of mind. If you thought only industrial factories with polluting smoke stacks can become environmentally liable, think again. Nowadays, environmental regulation aims at a broad spectrum of business enterprises, including importers, distributers and even e-commerce retailers. Certainly a challenging way to bring in the new year.