Disposable silverware (illustrative)
Disposable silverware (illustrative)iStock

Israel's Finance and Environmental Protection Ministries have announced that a "purchase tax" will be levied on the import and manufacture of plastic disposables, based on the weight of the items.

The move comes as the two ministries are consolidating a plan to reduce the use of plastic disposables, so as to bring Israel in line with other Western countries, which have taken similar steps.

The purchase tax will be similar to that levied on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Items taxed will include cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, and straws.

A study by the Environmental Protection Ministry showed that doubling the price consumers pay for disposables will reduce consumption by 40%.

Israeli households currently use 7.5 kilograms of plastic disposables per person annually, a number five times that of the European Union; the total amount spent on disposables in Israel is estimated to be nearly two billion shekel.

"Plastic disposables cause significant damage to the environment, and their negative effects on the public health are clear," the Environmental Protection Ministry said. "These dishes turn quickly from a useful item into waste which may continue to exist for thousands of years."

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said: "The consumption of disposables in Israel is growing at a rapid pace, and is unusual in its scope. Economic incentives can guide the public towards more environmentally-conscientious behavior. Many countries around the world have taken steps to reduce the use of disposables, and Israel similarly has an obligation to take steps to reduce the use of these dishes, while bringing about a significant change in consumer behavior."

Liberman added that he instructed those in his office not to use disposables.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said: "Just like cigarettes and alcohol, plastic disposables are an addiction."

"We are drowning in disposable plastic, and we all see its problematic effects on the cleanliness of the country and on our quality of life. Taxing it is in line with the principle that 'whoever pollutes, pays.' Those who choose to use a large amount of disposable dishes are the ones who will shoulder the most significant portion of the cost of the damage.

"I call on everyone to switch to reusable dishes, for the sake of everyone's health and the sake of the environment."

In 2018, following the implementation of a law mandating a charge of 0.10 shekel per plastic bag, the consumption of disposable supermarket bags dropped by 50%.