Plastic bag ban initiative will take place Jan. 1, 2017.
When shoppers line up at supermarket checkout lines this coming Sunday, swiping a few extra plastic bags to take home may no longer be an easy task.
As of January 1, lightweight plastic bags will be banned from large grocery chains entirely, while thicker ones will be available for purchase only – the culmination of a three-year journey in the Environmental Protection Ministry to pass such legislation. When the new Plastic Bag Law takes force, Israel will be joining many countries around the globe that have already had full or partial bans on bags in place for years.
"The Plastic Bag Law, which is putting a stop to the free distribution of bags in supermarkets, is imperative in order to reduce the serious damage to the environment due to uncontrolled use [of plastic bags]," said Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
"Similar legislation exists in almost all Western countries."
In order to alert the public about the new law, the Environment Ministry launch a campaign on Tuesday led by actor Ido Rosenblum. The campaign will be aired on TV, online and on the radio, the ministry said.
According to the new law, the distribution of lightweight plastic bags, with a thickness of 20 microns or less, will be prohibited entirely at large supermarkets.
For bags between 20 and 50 microns, supermarkets will charge customers a fee of 10 agorot per bag.
However, bags that come into direct contact with food, such as those provided for fruits and vegetables, will still be available for free, as long as they do not have handles, information from the ministry said.
In order to encourage members of the public to refrain from purchasing the plastic bags, the Environment Ministry is subsidizing the provision of multi-use “baskets” – large tote bags – at a variety of supermarket chains during the first month that the law takes effect.
Customers can receive one reusable tote bag at no additional cost, with grocery purchases of NIS 101-249. They can receive two bags for purchases of NIS 250-399, three bags for NIS 400- 549, four bags for NIS 550-750 and five bags for purchases of NIS 751 or more.
The tote bags will be available at Rami Levy, C.N. Market Storages Ltd., Keshet Teanim, ABA Victory Holding & Management, Yohananov M. & Sons, Bar- Col and Big & Cheap.
"It is important that we provide the public with alternatives to plastic bags - at the state's expense and not at the expense of the citizen," Elkin said. "Therefore, we are giving financial support to those supermarkets who are joining the process by distributing reusable baskets during the initial implementation of the law."
"We encourage every citizen to keep these baskets and to take them to the supermarket, so as not to waste money and so that the environment will not be harmed," he added.
As far as the purchasable plastic bags are concerned, the money generated by these sales will be transferred to the ministry’s Maintenance of Cleanliness Fund, where it will be used for projects aimed at reducing air pollution and for raising public awareness about the Plastic Bags Law.
Each quarter, supermarkets will need to submit reports to the Environment Ministry detailing the number of plastic bags sold, as well as pay the money they have accumulated from bag sales, according to the law.
The Plastic Bag Law has undergone a number of iterations since then-environmental protection minister Amir Peretz first began meeting with supermarket chain managers on the subject in September 2013. Ultimately, however, the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee granted unanimous approval to the current version in March, enabling the legislation to take effect on January 1.
All in all, about 1.6 billion plastic bags are used in branches of Israel’s major supermarket chains annually – equivalent to 350 bags per person per year, according to the ministry. Such bags, the ministry explained, “become non-degradable waste for centuries and pollute the environment – particularly open spaces and the global marine environment.”
Asked by The Jerusalem Post how the government intends to enforce the new law, the ministry said that officials plan to take several courses of action to ensure its effectiveness.
“Among them: receiving reports from supermarket chains regarding the deposit of fees collected and accounting reviews, as well as performing inspections at supermarket chain branches by the ‘Green Police,’” the ministry said. “In addition, the ministry is currently evaluating the options available regarding supervisory checks of plastic bag thickness.”
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