Earth Day 2019: This Passover, Israel Is a Plastic Polluting Superpower

Whether motivated by considerations of kashrut or sheer laziness, sales of single-use tableware soar on holidays

FILE Photo: Trash at a park near the Kinneret during Passover, Israel, 2018.
Gil Eliyahu

To the dismay of environmentalists, Passover in Israel seems to have become the holiday of liberation from washing dishes. Originating in a celebration of springtime, the feast has come to feature disposable plates and cutlery.

While some other nations have been discouraging, or outright outlawing, use of disposables, Israel is a plastic and paper plate superpower. The use of disposables in Israel has shot up by double-digits since May 2015. Israel is the No. 2 consumer of disposable tableware per capita, second only to the United States.

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>> Read more: The surprising ancient origins of Passover

Meanwhile the European Union parliament has passed a law prohibiting disposable plastic products, such as plates, cutlery, straws and cotton swabs, and balloon sticks, by the year 2021. Russia is reportedly mulling an environmental fee for disposable dishes.

“The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by member states by least 25 percent by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams,” the EU announced

India may be blackening the skies by burning garbage, but Prime Minister Narenda Modi has vowed to ban all single-use plastics by 2022. Mumbai isn’t waiting for the prime minister: it has already prohibited plastic bags and bottles in 2018, and fines or jails residents caught using them.

Costa Rica, from where climate change doyenne Christiana Figueres was born, has proved a global leader in climate change legislation, vowing to be first nation to get rid of single-use plastic. In February, Rwanda also passed a draft law seeking to prohibit the manufacture, use and sale of single-use plastic.

Israel? Nothing. There are no restrictions on making, importing, selling or using disposables.

Meanwhile, here in Israel, about 40 percent of all disposables are bought for holidays – Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Zalul environmental organization estimates. In recent years the trend has been not only to buy disposable dishes, but fancy ones at that.