On January 1, Israel was expected to implement a controversial plastic bag law, designed to kill plastic shopping bags in stores and replace them with more inconvenient, but reusable canvas bags.
MK Miri Regev (Likud) who heads the Knesset’s Interior and Protection of the Environment Committees announced that the controversial law was being delayed for the foreseeable future. Regev said the law is a difficult and complicated one, and requires a serious discussion about its downsides, and therefore should not be rushed into implementation.
The Department of Environmental Protection is pushing to have the law implemented quickly.
Regev said the cost of the law is too high for the public to bear, and wanted to make sure that this law wasn’t turning into someone’s cash cow, specifically referring to Israel’s Treasury department which overseas all tax collection, according to a Ynet report.
The law set the price for plastic shopping bags at 30 agurot (7.8 cents) a bag, which is 800% more than the cost of the bag. It is an unnecessary expense on the public, Regev said.
The committee pointed out the absurdity that the environment-tax law designated 80% of the revenue from the new bag tax directly to the Treasury department, while only 20% of the revenue would go towards environmental projects.
She said the Treasury Department estimated it would pick up an additional 1.1 billion shekels from the law, and therefore had a vested interest in pushing it. There is also concern that the Treasury will insert a VAT charge on top of the bag tax, and demanded that a VAT exemption be placed on the bag’s fees.
The Ministry of the Environment reported that revenue from the bags would only be NIS 200 million, as the number of plastic bags the public would buy and use would be significantly reduced.
Another issue Regev raised is that logistically, no one is actually prepared to implement the law.
Representatives from the plastic bag manufacturing industry say the law would be a “death blow” for them, and one suggestion is that all the tax bag revenue go to the environment with some compensation paid to plastic bag manufacturers for damages.
Environment Minister Amir Peretz, who recently quit his ministerial position and was championing the law, told the committee that the retail supermarket chains agreed on a compensation solution for plastic shopping bag manufacturers to allow them to change their production lines.
The Department of Environmental Protection reported to the committee that every family would receive 8 vouchers in the mail along with their electric bill. The vouchers would be traded in for reusable canvas bags. Canvas bags would also be distributed outside supermarkets and convenience stores for those who didn’t receive the vouchers.