Knesset Launches Stormy Discussion on Bottle Deposits

The Knesset Finance Committee held a stormy first meeting on the bottle deposit law yesterday.

Shas members were present, despite a demand by the Union of Environmental Defense that they not take part due to a possible conflict of interests.

As reported last week in TheMarker, a photograph of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef graces advertisements for Carlsberg beer, and an organization he controls grants kashrut certificates to the beer's manufacturer, the Central Bottling Company (Coca-Cola Israel).

When the meeting started yesterday, the committee's legal adviser, Eti Bendler, asked the two Shas MKs whether they were connected to drink manufacturers and whether their party had received direct or indirect material benefits from them. The two, Amnon Cohen and Yitzhak Vaknin, said they did not. Bendler said they could participate.

The Union for Environmental Defense said it would approach the Knesset Ethics Committee on the matter.

Cohen called it "temerity" to suggest that they had such connections, while Vaknin said they would be voting based on their conscience alone.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan presented an amendment that would make manufacturers responsible for collecting half the large drink bottles sold by placing more recycling containers in cities. Under the amendment, deposits would not be legislated for larger bottles.

Erdan said that the current law sets high quotas for recycling bottles under 1.5 liters, which are subject to deposits, but that the corporation charged with collecting the bottles has been allowed to reduce the quota every year due to a lack of resources. Also, the public lacks access to places that collect bottles with deposits, he said.

Erdan said that the amendment would make manufacturers fully responsible for collecting bottles with deposits, and they would be fined for falling short of quotas.

As for the large bottles, Erdan said that if they were also subject to deposits, citizens would find that they, rather than the manufacturers, were funding the collection infrastructure. Under the proposed amendment, manufacturers would pay for collection.

Lawmakers accused Erdan of surrendering to the manufacturers by lowering quotas.

"I prefer to set real quotas, not those that have to be retroactively corrected," Erdan retorted.