​The goal of a Plastic Bag Law would be to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place, as opposed to figuring out the best way to deal with it once it’s produced. That was the message from Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay during a discussion in the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee of the Knesset (Parliament) about a law that would prohibit the free distribution of plastic bags in supermarkets. Cutting plastic bag production is particularly important, explained the minister, because they are not biodegradable. More than 2 billion disposable plastic bags are produced in Israel every year; 1.4 billion are distributed at supermarkets.

A previous version of a plastic bag bill passed a first reading in Oct. 2014, but its promotion was frozen after the dissolution of the Knesset later that same year. The new proposed legislation is similar, but with certain revisions. It passed a first reading in November 2015, and must still pass a second and third reading before becoming law.

Minister Avi Gabbay: "It’s important to remember that environmental considerations are important, but there are also cost-of-living considerations. We made a number of changes in the bill, including reducing the levy [that will be charged to manufacturers and importers of plastic bags, and passed onto consumers] from 30 agorot to 10 agorot. In the previous version of the bill, the levy also went down to 10 agorot eventually, after a few years.

"In a survey that we conducted, people were asked how [a plastic bag law] would affect their use, if bags cost 10 agorot, and we saw there would be a massive impact. If it does not work, we’ll raise the price [per bag]. At the end of the day, the real debate is between 10 agorot and 1 NIS, which would obviously be a dramatic difference. At 30 agorot, the only thing you are managing to do is create an additional tax on citizens."

The money that consumers will pay supermarkets for the plastic bags will go into the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund. It will be used for environmental projects. "Thus," notes Mr. Gabbay, "we can ensure that the money is being returned to the public."

Learn more about the Plastic Bag Law and the environmental harm caused by plastic bags.