Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and Environment Minister Amir Peretz reached a compromise on how much consumers who choose to use plastic grocery bags supplied by supermarkets will have to pay. While the bill originally called for a 60 agurot (18¢) charge for each bag “purchased,” the compromise will set the charges significantly lower. Bennett had challenged the proposal and promised to vote against it.
According to the compromise, consumers will pay 30 agurot (8¢) for the first year after the bill is passed. Bag costs will fall to 20 agurot (6¢) and then to 10 agurot (3.5¢) within four years of the bill's passage. Bennett said that the change would still provide an incentive for Israelis to recycle bags or use their own cloth bags, without requiring excessive charges. While environmental concerns are important, Bennett said, “any law we pass must take into account reducing the burden on the public.”
The law is designed to reduce the use of plastic bags in Israel. According to Peretz, “the use of plastic bags has become an addition that causes dangerous pollution. The entire government is committed to reducing the damage caused by these bags and to place Israel in line with the many other countries that have ended the use of plastic bags in markets.” Peretz said that he was sensitive to the loss of income to plastic bag makers, and would ensure that they were compensated.
Plastic bags are considered a major environmental hazard, because there are so many of them in use. The bags eventually find their way to landfills, and since plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, environmentalists are concerned that the exponential growth of their use constitutes and environmental disaster. Environmentalists point to many incidents in which birds and animals ingest or get tangled up in plastic bags, causing many of them to suffer and die.
On the other hand, studies have emerged in areas where plastic bags have been banned showing that consumers are more prone to food poisoning and other food safety issues. According to the studies, consumers often do not bother to wash the reusable cloth bags, and bacteria such as e.coli that may have sloughed off meat and chicken or vegetables that was in the bag can infect other foods.