The Knesset passed early Tuesday morning a bill intended to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags. The bill, which will go into effect in January of 2017, would ban the free distribution of plastic shopping bags by supermarkets and other stores. It proposes a mandatory 10 agurot (3 cents) charge for every shopping bag used.

Forty-four MKs voted in favor of the bill in its second and third readings, with none opposed.

The explanatory notes accompanying the bill state that the excessive use of disposable bags has become ”an inseparable part of purchasing commodities, both among the public and among the retailers who supply the bags,” which ”create a host of environmental problems.”

Knesset passes law aimed at reducing the use of disposable plastic bags

(MK Uri Maklev – Photo: Itzik Harari)

The free distribution of disposable bags ”creates a large and excessive amount of waste which does not decompose for hundreds of years, pollutes the environment, the open areas and the global marine environment,” according to the bill.

MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), who presented the bill on behalf of MK David Amsalem (Likud), chairman of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, noted that the use of disposable plastic bags in Israel now stands at 274 bags per person per year, or more than 2 billion bags total per year.

”This is a bill that will affect all of us, and it is important not only because it will reduce littering, but also as a matter of teaching [good habits],” he said.

MK Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Camp) argued that the 10 agurot mandatory charge was too low, citing studies conducted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection which show that any charge below 60 agurot would be ineffective. ”Many people don`t even pick up 10 agurot coins on the street, so now all we can do is hope that this fee will cause people to make a change,” she told the plenum.

In response, Minister of Environmental Protection Avi Gabay said ”We will raise the fee if we will sense that there the need to do so. When you start low and it doesn`t succeed, you can go up.”