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The days of free plastic shopping bags may be coming to an end. The Knesset yesterday approved in first reading a ban on the free distribution of the ubiquitous, double-handled bags. The bill, which still has another two readings before passing into law, would permit stores to sell the bags. It does not ban the free distribution of bags used for produce.

"We know the Israeli public, the moment they'll have to pay for the bag either they'll take just one or they won't take any at all," MK Ophir Pines-Paz, chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, said.

The bill approved yesterday was proposed by MKs Esterina Tartman and Dov Khenin, and is a weaker version of a proposal that would have banned all distribution and sale of the bags. In addition it obligates the environmental affairs minister to enact a rule requiring all grocery bags to be degradable.

Also, all businesses would be required to provide biodegradable bags, according to the bill.