Ministerial committee resurrects bill to ban free plastic bag distribution at supermarkets

Customers would be required to pay 30 agorot for bags, with the price dropping to 20 agorot after two years and then to 10 agorot after four years.

July 27, 2015 19:07
2 minute read.

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


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Members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved the Environmental Protection Ministry’s request to apply the law of continuity to a bill that would ban the free distribution of plastic bags in the country’s supermarkets.

The bill – which received Knesset plenary approval during the previous government – will now be able to return to the legislature for second and third readings as a result of the committee’s endorsement. While the bill, a flagship project of former environmental protection minister Amir Peretz, passed its first reading in the plenary with flying colors in October, the legislative process was halted when the government was dissolved in December.

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According to the bill, businesses would need to stop carrying disposable bags thinner than 20 microns entirely, while those between 20 and 50 microns could be available for a fee. Customers would be required to pay 30 agorot for bags, with the price dropping to 20 agorot after two years and then to 10 agorot after four years.

“This is another way in which Israel is adapting itself to advanced environmental countries,” said Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai.

The original bill, which first received approval in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation last July, had called for charging customers at least 40 agorot per plastic bag. At the time, then-economy minister Naftali Bennett filed an appeal against the bill, expressing concern about its potential impact on consumers, and the ministers ultimately compromised on 30 agorot per bag.

Following the bill’s approval in the Knesset plenary at its first reading last year, a discussion in the legislature’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee was scheduled to take place on November 10. But a day after Peretz announced his intention to resign from the previous government, then-committee chairwoman Miri Regev announced she would be postponing the discussion, effectively killing the bill.

The original version of the bill including the distribution of free reusable totes to Israel consumers, which Peretz promoted in order to discourage the use of plastic bags, an element which remains uncertain in the new legislation.

Peretz met last year with the CEOs of several grocery chains, who pledged to purchase Environmental Protection Ministry-sponsored multi-use bags to be distributed in their stores for free. The ministry had planned to provide coupons attached to electricity bills enabling households to acquire seven bags apiece.

Asked whether plans were still underway for the allocation of such multi-use bags, a ministry spokeswoman said the issue was still under evaluation.

“The minister and his ministry, together with supermarket heads, will examine the renewal of the project and check the subject of distributing the baskets,” the spokeswoman said.

Israelis use about 275 plastic bags per capita each year, totaling approximately 2.2 billion bags annually for the entire country, ministry data said. A survey conducted by the ministry last year indicated that more than 70 percent of Israelis support an end to free plastic bag distribution.

Many animals in Israel, particularly ibex, have suffered from ingesting plastic bags, and worldwide, about 100,000 marine animals also die annually from this same phenomenon, the ministry added.

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