Israel Jumps on Bag Ban Bandwagon

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli lobbyists and legislators moved ahead on Monday with their campaign to join other countries which have restricted the use of plastic bags, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Both the Environmental Protection Ministry and MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) submitted  bills in the Knesset on Monday morning calling for a prohibition of plastic bags in stores.

The two proposals complement each other. The Rozin bill, drafted by Zalul and the Council for a Beautiful Israel, seeks to replace plastic bag use with biodegradable bags or reusable baskets to lessen the damage to the environment.

The Environmental Protection Ministry plan was aimed at the distribution of plastic bags in retail chains. In contrast to Rozin’s bill, it provies for the distribution of free multi-use baskets prior to outlawing free plastic bags.

“The bill submitted today would put Israel on par with Western countries, on the one hand limiting the continued pollution of the environment and landscape and on the other hand bringing the public advanced and practical solutions that are suitable substitutes for these bags,” Rozin said.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz declared: “I intend to bring a new reality in which plastic bags will disappear from the landscape and culture,” Peretz said. “Israel will align itself with the most advanced countries in the industry … shopping will occur by means of reusable baskets.”

The Ministry says that the average Israeli uses 275 plastic bags each year, and a quarter of all bags are thrown away immediately after use and remain in landfills for decades. In addition, discarded bags are carried long distances by the wind, and many animals — particularly ibex in Israel — are harmed by eating them.

At the moment, about 2 billion plastic bags are distributed in Israel each year, for an average use of about 11 minutes only, Rozin’s bill said.

Rozin and the Environmental Protection Ministry had been working separately on the issue for some time, apparently without each other’s knowledge. They are in consultation now on merging their proposals into one bill.

Italy banned plastic bags that are not biodegradable in 2011, and several other European countries tax stores that hand them out, many of which in turn charge usage fees to customers.

However, the European Union as a whole is not there yet. Although the EU’s European Commission adopted a proposal in November 2013 that would require member states to reduce the use of “lightweight plastic carrier bags,” in their countries, it has yet to pass.

China outlawed the distribution of lightweight plastic bags in 2008, and many other Asian and African countries have adopted similar prohibitions or tax schemes.

In the U.S., a few cities — notably San Francisco and Portland — have enacted plastic bag prohibitions.