Plan to Impose Fee on Shopping Bags to Be Revived

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The ubiquitous plastic shopping bag could soon cost 12 cents in Israeli supermarkets.Credit: Bloomberg

A bill that would require stores to charge customers for disposable plastic bags in an effort to cut down on the refuse they generate is being revived by Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai (Kulanu) after failing to be voted into law last year, TheMarker has learned.

Sponsored by Amir Peretz, the environmental protection minister at the time, the bill passed the first of the three votes required to become law last October. But it stalled after Peretz resigned from the government in November. Gabai has decided to revive it.

During his term as environmental protection minister, Peretz was adamant that the use of thin plastic bags of the type commonly provided in Israel by supermarket chains be curbed by requiring the retailers to charge 30 to 40 agorot (about 8 to 11 U.S. cents) per bag. The proposed plan was also to provide vouchers that would be distributed to Israeli households with their electric bills and that would redeemable for thicker reusable bags. Israelis discard an estimated 2.2 billion plastic shopping bags a year, an average of 980 per household. The bags are not biodegradable and take hundreds of years to disintegrate in garbage dumps.

The first time around, the bill was not without its detractors, however. The bag manufacturers said the legislation would lead to plant closures and layoffs. Likud Knesset member Miri Regev, who in the current government is culture and sports minister, opposed the bill on the argument that 30 agorot a bag was too high a price. The bill was also opposed by Habayit Hayehudi Knesset member Ayelet Shaked, the current justice minister.

Peretz was affiliated with the Hatnuah party, which is now part of the Zionist Union. A month after he quit the cabinet, Hatnuah leader Tzipi Linvi, the justice minister at the time, followed suit. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the bag legislation on hold for what he said were coalition considerations. The initial bill’s fate was sealed when new elections were called for March of this year.

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