28/03/2016
Distribution of Free Plastic Bags at Supermarkets to Come to an End
 
 
A bill aimed at motivating Israelis to use environmentally-beneficial reusable bags at supermarkets is one step closer to becoming law. On March 28th, the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee unanimously agreed to put the Plastic Bag Law before the full Knesset (Parliament) for a second and third reading. If lawmakers pass the bill, consumers will have to pay for plastic bags at large supermarket chains. The goal is to reduce the amount of polluting plastic bags that are produced, as opposed to figuring out the best way to deal with them once it’s produced.

​Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay has been promoting the current Plastic Bag bill over the past few months. The law, which was first proposed by former Minister Amir Peretz, puts a complete ban on distribution of "thin" plastic bags, with a width of less than 20 microns. Supermarkets will have to charge a fee for bags that are between 20-50 microns, and to note the charge on the customer’s bill.

The money that is paid for the bags will be transferred to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund. It will be used to fund projects aimed at reducing air pollution throughout Israel, and to raise public awareness about the new law.

Minister Avi Gabbay: "Today, we are taking an important step toward preserving the environment, without raising the cost of living."

Specific goals will be set for the law, such that its implementation and success can be monitored. In addition, the minister will be able to extend the law so that it applies to all businesses – and not just supermarkets. The minister will also have the authority to raise the price of the plastic bags.

The average Israeli uses 275 non-biodegradable plastic bags in a year, with total annual plastic bag consumption in Israel reaching 2.2 billion bags; 1.4 billion are distributed at supermarkets. Today, supermarkets spend more than NIS 88 million a year on plastic bags. That expense is passed onto customers through product prices. The process that the MoEP is promoting will lead to a change, such that customers will pay only for their own consumption of these polluting bags.

Among the environmental harm this causes:

  1. Plastic bags that are thrown into the garbage remain in landfills for hundreds of years until they disintegrate.
  2. Plastic bags that are not thrown into the garbage end up polluting open spaces, urban spaces, nature reserves, beaches, and the sea.
  3. Animals in Israel have been greatly damaged by plastic bags, especially ibex that eat the bags.
  4. Some 100,000 marine animals around the world die every year from ingesting plastic bags.
  5. Plastic bags are make from petroleum, and their wasteful use causes the need for more oil extraction and production, environmentally harmful activities.

 

Surveys show that more than 70% of the public support banning the distribution of plastic bags for free.