A bill proposed by MKs Estherina Tartman (Israel Beitenu) and Dov Kheinin (Hadash) to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags passed its first reading on Monday. The bill mandates that plastic bags cannot be offered for free in stores in order to reduce their profligate use. Studies have shown that Israelis use two billion of the thin plastic bags a year and that the average life span of each bag is 20 minutes, or roughly the time it takes to transport groceries from store to home. The original formulation of the bill had suggested a levy on the bags, but that version allowed the stores to absorb the cost of the levy and continue offering the bags for free. The change in formulation came about as a result of an Environmental Protection Ministry study into the matter which determined that levying a fine wouldn't reduce the use of plastic bags. Consumer Council Representative Tomer Mizrahi noted that the bags had always cost money but that the stores had absorbed the cost by raising prices. The committee therefore made a point of mentioning in the bill that consumers would not have to "double pay" for the bags. The other part of the bill mandates the offering of a multiple-use alternative bag by stores, and would develop a standard for biodegradable ones. Fines for giving away plastic bags for free would stand at NIS 27,000, while selling multiple-use bags which failed to meet the standard would garner a fine of NIS 67,000. Dr. Ofira Ayalon, who coordinated the ministry's research study, noted that plastic bags constituted less than one percent of Israelis trash. That prompted committee chair Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) to remark that "it appears the phenomenon of plastic bags' bark is worse than its bite. We must provide a reasonable solution to the problem without killing a fly with a hammer." Both the bag manufacturers and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) expressed their support for the bill. IUED also called on the Environmental Protection Ministry to get behind the bill. Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra had said last month that he planned on bringing a bill to address the same issue to the Knesset.