The Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved a bill proposed by Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz to ban the free distribution of plastic bags in supermarkets. The committee approved the bill after consultations with stakeholders including the public, bag manfuacturers, government officials, and others. If passed, the law would obligate supermarket chains to distribute free multi-use baskets for a specified time period, and then to charge consumers NIS 0.40 per plastic bags.The money from that charge would fund the plastic bag program and would be used to establish a mechanism that would assist manufacturers of bags.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection set the price at NIS 0.40 per bag after researching the issue and determining that that is the price that would force consumers to change their habits. (They would still be willing to buy plastic bags if they cost less than NIS 0.40.)
Minister Peretz: "The time has come to be part of the advanced countries whose citizens understand that the few benefits they have derived from free plastic bags in the past have harmed the environment and caused great harm for the next generation."
The current estimated cost of plastic bags in Israel is NIS 80 million annually, which is passed on to customers. More than 70% of the public supports a law that would prohibit the free distribution of plastic bags that harm the environment. Bags that come in direct contact with food, such as for fruits and vegetables, will still be distributed, as is done in Europe. Supermarkets that violate the law will face fines of tens of thousands of shekel. The legal process will be accompanied by a public campaign about the upcoming law and the dangers of plastic bags.
Peretz made the eradication of supermarket plastic bags one of his tasks when he began his post at the MoEP. The average Israeli uses 275 plastic bags in a year; total annual consumption is 2.2 billion. A quarter of all plastic bags are thrown away immediate after use, and remain in landfills for hundreds of years until they disintegrate. Many other bags end up polluting open spaces, urban space, nature reserves, beaches, and the sea. Animals in Israel have been greatly damaged, especially ibex that eat the bags. And some 100,000 marine animals around the world die every year from ingesting plastic bags. Furthermore, plastic bags are make from petroleum, and their wasteful use causes the need for more oil extraction and production, environmentally harmful activities.