Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz will submit to the government in the coming days a bill that would prohibit the free distribution of plastic bags.

If it becomes law, the legislation would mandate that disposable plastic bags cost 60 agorot apiece, with the money going toward establishing recycling and waste treatment facilities, the Environment Ministry said on Tuesday night. As the measure goes into effect, shoppers would receive free reusable baskets as a substitute for the plastic bags, the ministry added.

“The time has come to be part of the advanced countries whose citizens have realized that the small convenience they received from free plastic bags in the past created severe harm to the environment and great damage to future generations,” Peretz said. “I am sure that the supermarket chains and Israeli citizens will be partners in this important process.”

Each year, supermarkets spend about NIS 80 million on plastic bags, which causes a “roll-up” in prices on various products, according to the ministry. Polls conducted by the ministry have indicated that more than 70 percent of the public support the end of free plastic bag distribution, which damage the terrestrial and marine environments.

Plastic bags that come in direct contact with food such as vegetable and grains would be excluded from the prohibition, as is the case in much of Europe.

If the bill passes, the Environment Ministry intends to carry out a public awareness campaign to discourage the use of plastic bags. Violations of the law would result in fines amounting of NIS 20,000 to NIS 60,000 for the vendor.

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