Manufacturers: Plastic Bags Don’t Cause Much Pollution

Environmental Protection Ministry intends to slap 60-agorot surcharge on every 'disposable’ shopping bag.

Bloomberg

Plastic-bag manufacturers have lashed out at the Environmental Protection Ministry’s declared intent to force retailers to start charging for plastic bags, claiming that contrary to the ministry’s intent, the move would do little to halt the pollution problems caused by bags.

The ministry published a draft bill nearly two weeks ago stating that it intends to charge local bag producers and importers a 60-agorot surcharge on each bag, which would be passed on to end consumers. Retailers would be required to collect the surcharge from consumers for every bag they use. The money would be put into a fund dedicated to cleaning up the environment.

Now the country’s five bag manufacturers and importers have responded with an opinion stating that Israelis’ use of plastic shopping bags pales in comparison to the use of other kinds of plastic bags or plastic in general, so minimizing the use of plastic shopping bags would have little environmental impact. They also argued that plastic shopping bags are the only plastic bags that are reused by consumers – many people reuse them as trash bags at home. The law ignores the fact that consumers would then replace their shopping bags with purchased garbage bags, they stated.

They also blamed supermarkets for encouraging the use of bags by demanding cheaply manufactured products. Israeli supermarkets spend an estimated 80 million shekels a year on plastic bags, according to ministry calculations.

Furthermore, many of the cheapest plastic bags come from Palestinian territory, and are brought into Israel in violation of regulations, argued the group. Instead of the ministry’s plan, the manufacturers and importers said they recommended that regulation regarding the recycling of packaging be applied to bags as well. The ministry has rejected this idea in the past, on the grounds that Israel lacks the technical and financial infrastructure for a bag collection and recycling program.

The ministry’s initiative is intended to address the impact of plastic bags winding up in open areas and in the sea and waterways. Only one-quarter of all plastic bags used in Israel – of which there are 2.2 billion a year – find their way into the trash after use, says the ministry.

The bill states that during a transition period, the supermarket chains would be required to give customers reusable bags for free with their purchases.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said his ministry was committed to reducing the environmental damage from plastic bags, but did not intend to ignore the manufacturers in the process.