Bill to charge 10 agorot for plastic bags passes first hurdle in Knesset

March 28, 2016 20:59

Move brings the bill closer to becoming a law, almost two years after former Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz first introduced the initiative.

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Plastic bags [illustrative]. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee on Monday approved the first reading of a bill that would charge customers 10 agorot for a plastic bag.

It brings the bill closer to becoming a law, almost two years after former Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz first introduced the initiative. Now, it will head for the final readings of the law in the Knesset plenum.

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If the bill passes, plastic bags at large supermarket chains would cost 10 agorot each and bags thinner than 20 microns would be banned completely. The money collected from the free will go toward the ministry’s Cleanliness Maintenance Fund that goes toward projects to reduce air pollution as well as public awareness campaigns.

The bill Peretz initially proposed in 2014 would have charged 60 agorot per bag and provided a free reusable bag to consumers. A later version of the bill, which would have charged 30 agorot per bag, was approved by the Knesset plenary in the first reading on October 2014, but eventually was shelved when the government fell apart. It was later resurrected after the formation of the current government.

Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay said that the bill will help protect the environment “without placing a burden on the cost of living.”

The ministry estimates that Israeli consumers use over 2.2 billion plastic bags each year, adding that large supermarket chains spend NIS 88 million annually on plastic bags and tack the cost onto the price of products.

In the coming year, the ministry is expected to decide on targets with which to measure if the law is successful. While some praised the fact that the legislation passed this first stage, they also worried that it is too weak.

Ronen Bodoni, who heads Environmental NGO Zalul, said on Monday that a plastic bag law needs to be “brave and uncompromising” in order to seriously convince consumers to use less bags. He mused that the bill’s stipulations were likely lightened in order for it to pass a Knesset vote easier but said that “the public will stay apathetic.”

Meanwhile MK Yael Cohen Paran said that the law should have been similar to previous proposals to charge a 40-agorot fee and give consumers a free, reusable bag. Still, she praised the “positive change” for Israel’s environment.

When the current version of the bill was formulated in February, Zalul’s CEO, Maya Jacobs, told The Jerusalem Post that the law would have to charge at least 30-agorot per bag and would need to involve smaller stores as well for it to be effective.

A statement from the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce thanked the ministry for their “cooperation throughout the legislative process.”


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