The Council for a Beautiful Israel called on Wednesday for all single-use plastic bags to be banned in Israel. The call came in response to a debate in the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee whether to approve the plastic bag bill for discussion in the current session. The council warned that in its current form the proposed law could actually create more disposable plastic bags.
The bill, which was proposed during the last Knesset, would attempt to reduce plastic bag use by forcing store owners to charge customers for the plastic bags instead of handing them out for free. At the same time, it would force those same owners to offer patrons the option of either reusable plastic bags or biodegradable plastic bags.
Reusable plastic bags are made of thicker plastic, such as those offered in shoe stores, rather than typical supermarket bags. Moreover, the environmental protection minister would be empowered to decide on a standard for each type of bag, which does not exist as yet. The council said, however, that the standard for degradable bags was near completion.
Israelis consume two billion single-use plastic bags each year and the average life span is 20 minutes, or the time it takes to bring it back from the supermarket, unpack the bag and throw it out, according to the council. The council has run its "one plastic bag less" campaign for the past two years.
The bags represent 28 percent of the garbage generated annually by volume and 7% of its weight, according to the explanation that accompanies the bill. The bags also present a potential ground contamination threat and pose a choking hazard to animals in the wild and in the sea.
The council argued that the current version of the bill could quite possibly cause exactly the opposite of the desired effect - more bags would be created rather than fewer. Rather than have three different types of plastic bags, one-time use, reusable and degradable, it argued that single-use bags should be outlawed altogether.
The council worked with MKs Yohanan Plessner (Kadima) and later MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) on a proposed bill. A similar bill by MKs Dov Henin (Hadash) and then MK Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) was also proposed. The committee decided during the last Knesset to merge the two bills, resulting in the version that was debated on Wednesday.
MK Dov Henin told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that he was surprised to hear about the council's objections.
"The fact that the bill was approved to continue by the committee means that it is a work in progress. It is not a finished bill. We have not met with all the relevant professional parties yet and we may not even be committed to the text as it is right now. So their statements come very early in the process. The bill is not ready yet for second and third readings. It may be that the mechanism which the council suggested will be discussed in the future. The Council for a Beautiful Israel is certainly one of the relevant parties," he said.
"This bill is complex, which is why it has been three years since it was approved in a preliminary reading and it's not done yet," he added.
The bill is set to come before the Knesset plenum in two weeks for a vote on its continuation. If it is not approved for continuation, it will have to be submitted from scratch.