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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Israel’s Controversial Plastic Bag Law Delayed

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

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.

Knesset Eco-Terrorism Bill Hurts Shoppers, Hurts Environment and Hurts Pocketbook

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

I know it sounds so pedestrian compared to the more serious problems Israel faces, but the Knesset’s new eco-terrorism “bag tax” bill annoys me. It will make our country a dirtier place, and add a needless expense (tax) onto an already heavily taxed consumer.

The Knesset just passed the first of three votes to try and kill the plastic shopping bag.

It will require that supermarkets charge you 30 agurot per plastic shopping bag you take. Every household will be given (somehow) 7 permanent cloth bags instead. Maybe they’ll hand them out with the gas masks.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when we go shopping for my family, we require far more than 7 bags (and we have to be able to lift them, so we aren’t going to overload them either). And when we get home, we don’t throw those plastic shopping bags away.

We recycle them.

Some bags line the garbage bins in the bathrooms.

Other bags are used for dirty diapers.

Another sits in my car for collecting garbage there.

Hareidim use them to protect their hats from the rain.

My neighbor (thankfully) uses his to pick up his dog’s poo, so the rest of us don’t have to step in it.

In fact, most Israelis I know recycle their plastic bags.

But now, a bunch of Knesset members (many I suspect don’t do their own shopping, clean their own houses, have large families, or pick up after their dogs) want to destroy this incredibly useful, recyclable and reusable tool.

Did you know that in 2002, in Ireland, when they imposed a shopping bag tax, shopping bag usage dropped 90%, just like their government wanted.

Instead, it had the unintended consequence of packaged plastic bags sales rising 400% in response. In fact, there was a  net gain in plastic bag usage. People were simply forced to buy them instead, and they even bought more.

Maybe some of our Knesset Members should read this fact sheet before the next vote.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

“The Scottish Environment and Rural Development Committee concluded that a plastic bag tax in Scotland would increase waste arisings by 13,742 tonnes.”

Here’s another interesting tidbit, the amount of tax money collected as a result of the Irish bag tax went up, which makes one wonder about the true motivation behind the Knesset’s bag tax.

It’s also a myth that plastic bags kill masses of fish and wildlife like some eco-terrorists claim.

I wonder if our MKs even know what percent of landfill garbage plastic shopping bags make up. Maybe the MKs would like us to stop throwing away garbage completely, then our landfills would never fill up at all.

The Knesset doesn’t even wants us to switch to the more expensive, dual-use, biodegradable paper bags (which require more resources and energy to make, and take up more space per bag, but at least you can pick up dog poo with them).

By the way, in 2008, a 16 year old discovered how to biodegrade plastic bags in only 3 months.

And don’t think those 7 cloth bags are so eco-friendly in the long term. They get dirty and moldy, and you need to use up (expensive) water to wash them, otherwise bacteria builds up.

For health reasons, let me repeat that, you MUST wash these bags.

A 2010 joint University of Arizona and Limo Loma University study found that “Reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health”. The study found that 97% of users did not wash them and that greater than 50% of the 84 bags contained coliform (a bacteria found in fecal material), while E. coli was found in 12% of the bags.

There’s a cost to making them too. And don’t get me started about what happens when the milk container leaks. And you’re obviously going to have to buy more than 7 of them if you plan to take your shopping home, especially if you want to be able to lift the bag. And when they start to rip, you’ll be throwing them away too.

A United Kingdom Environment Agency unpublished study in 2005 found that the average cotton bag is used only 51 times before being thrown away.

The problem is, a cotton bag actually needs to be used 131 times before it becomes better for the environment.

How many plastic shopping bags do you need, to take up the same amount of landfill space as one discarded cloth bag?

My guess (just a guess, I haven’t checked) is around 50. So if my guess is right, your 7 (initial) cloth bags will take up the space of 350 plastic shopping bags when you throw them away. And don’t forget, the average family will need to buy a few more each year to handle a normal weekly shopping.

And let’s not even talk about the inconvenience of having to take them with you everywhere in case you want to go shopping.

If our MKs want to really help our environment, they would stop the Arabs from wantonly burning their garbage everywhere in every open field they have.

Our MKs have an obligation to review this controversial bill before passing it, to determine what the real impact to our convenience, environment and pocketbook will be.

If they find that there is a clear, unequivocal benefit and the (clearly) predictable unintended consequences don’t negate its supposed benefits, then I won’t stand in their way.

But even if the sources I found are slanted, it is clear that the benefits are not as clear cut as the eco-terrorists would have you believe.

As I see it, this law, if it passes, amounts to nothing more than a new tax on households with babies, dogs, hats, and most everyone else.

We need plastic shopping bags to keep Israel clean.

Israelis Invent Revolutionary Alternative Fuel

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have invented a process to make a green feed alternative for crude oil out of two of the most common substances on Earth – water and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas detrimental to the environment.

Profs. Moti Herskowitz and Miron Landau, along with Dr. Roxana Vidruk and the team at BGU’s Blechner Center of Industrial Catalysis and Process Development have developed a green feed that can be converted using well-established technologies into liquid fuel and delivered using existing infrastructure to gas stations. As opposed to other alternative fuel sources, such as electric cars, which require additional infrastructure, this green feed would merely replace oil as the input for refineries.

The project is partially supported by I-SAEF (Israel Strategic Alternative Energy Foundation).

Herskowitz unveiled the revolutionary breakthrough at the Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv last week.

“It is an extraordinary challenge to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen to green feed,” says Herskowitz. “The technology is based on novel specially tailored catalysts and catalytic processes. Well-established, commercially available technology can be directly applied to the process developed at BGU. It is envisaged that the short-term implementation of the process will combine synthetic gas produced from various renewable and alternative sources with carbon dioxide and hydrogen.”

Prof. Herskowitz, who is the Israel Cohen Chair in Chemical Engineering and the VP & Dean at BGU, indicated that the new process should become a reality in the near future. “Since there are no foreseen technological barriers, the new process should become a reality within five to ten years,” he says.

Regarding other alternative fuels, Herskowitz maintains that his invention represents a game-changer.

“The liquids that have been used over the past decade are ethanol (alcohol), biodiesel and/or blends of these fuels with conventional fuels, as will continue to be done in the foreseeable future. These alternatives are, however, far from ideal, and there is a pressing need for a game-changing approach to produce alternative drop-in liquid transportation fuels by sustainable, technologically viable and environmentally acceptable processes from abundant, low-cost, renewable materials.”

Researchers at the Blechner Center have also developed a novel process for converting vegetable and algae oils to advanced green diesel and jet fuels.

‘Dream Road’ from Gush Etzion to Dead Sea May Explode Peace Talks

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Palestinian Authority-Israeli “peace talks” might be short-lived following the unveiling on Tuesday of a new Gush Etzion-Dead Sea highway Tuesday that would destroy Palestinian Authority ambitions to include all of the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert in its planned future state.

While foreign and Israeli media reported that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas  has made it clear there is no room for compromise on PA territorial demands in the area, two Cabinet ministers senior Knesset Member Avigdor Liberman toured the proposed route of the new highway, with work slated to begin in only four months.

News of the new west-east road, which would revolutionize travel and the tourist industry, has barely been reported, but once the Palestinian Authority gets a hold of it, it undoubtedly will demand that there is no sense in talking unless Israel calls off the bulldozers and asphalt trucks.

“Israel will not be present between us and Jordan,” Abbas said in Jericho  this week. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has consistently said that Israel will retain a presence in the Jordan Valley as a security measure.

Abbas on Sunday rejected an Israeli military presence, adding that he might consider an international force to back up PA security forces.

The planned $10 million highway makes mincemeat out of Abbas’ grand vision and could set off the fuse that would explode the PA-Israeli discussions that Palestinian Authority negotiators insist are going nowhere.

The route for the new road was unveiled during a tour of the area on Tuesday by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a strong Likud nationalist, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir of Yisrael Beiteinu , and Liberman, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction in the Likud party.

The highway would cut through “Area C,” determined by the Oslo Accords to be under Israeli control, and would carve through some of Israel’s most awesome natural areas.

Planners  claimed that the route was approved by environmental experts,  but any work that would scar the Judean Desert cliffs, parts of which are virgin area occupied only by wildlife, would meet a storm of protests from environmentalists.

The political story from the Palestinian Authority will be just as fierce, but comments by Israeli  officials touring the route Tuesday were full of enthusiasm and praise.

“I have been dreaming of this road for 20 years,” said Motti Dahaman, chairman of the Megillot Regional Council in the Dead Sea area north of Ein Gedi.

“This road is part of a vision or tourism and will connect Gush Etzion to the Dead Sea and Megillot with Jerusalem,”  He said. “The highway will make it easier form tourists form Bethlehem to come to the Dead Sea.” The highway if it can bridge the political divide, will cut travel time from Gush Etzion to the Dead Sea to only 27 minutes. Today, the only way to reach the Dead Sea, except by four-wheel vehicles, is via Jerusalem to the north or  Arad to the south, with travel time of nearly 90 minutes.

Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Davidi Perl called the highway an “historic event” and added, “Today there are only two roads to the Dead Sea. The significance of this new highway is that it will bring the center of the country to the Dead Sea and encourage tourism there and in Gush Etzion and the Judean Desert.

The road would include the current Beit Shemesh-Gush Etzion route, which would be widened into a super highway, and it then would carve out a new path, over dirt roads, east of Efrat and then south east, bypassing virtually impassable cliffs.

Israel First Electric Bus Debuts in Tel Aviv

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Tel Aviv residents began riding on Israel’s first electric bus Tuesday, several weeks after the Better Place electric car venture filed for bankruptcy,

The Dan Bus Company invested $112 million for the orange-colored pollution-free bus, whose route takes it from the city’s central bus station to the Arlozorov train station. It can run approximately four hours before needing a six-our charge, and if it pays off, the bus company envisions buying another 250 electric vehicles.

As for the private electric business, there still is a chance it will make a comeback. Investors paid only $5.5 to pick up the pieces of Better Place and try to recharge the idea of Israeli motorists driving gas-free cars.

Empire Kosher Fined for Environmental Violations

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Empire Kosher Poultry was fined $99,000 by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection for repeat violations dating back to 2008.

The infractions at America’s largest kosher poultry producer, which has its plant in Mifflintown, Pa., included chemical spills, discharge of untreated industrial wastewater into the nearby Juniata River, improper storage of solid waste and a lack of reporting to state authorities of some unauthorized discharges.

For example, a state inspection on March 15 revealed an unreported industrial wastewater spill that an Empire employee said was from the chicken de-skinning operation area. Inspectors found a wastewater manhole that overflowed to the ground and into a storm water conveyance system, spilling chicken skin and fat into the areas.

The earliest citation, in May 2008, faulted Empire for having dysfunctional dissolved-air-flotation machines, not maintaining proper records, failing to provide secondary containment around storage containers in the feather pit, and having chemical spills and process waste in the feather pit.

On May 28, Empire agreed to pay fines totaling $99,000. Approximately $15,000 was paid to Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Abatement Fund and another $84,000 will go to the state’s Clean Water Fund over a period of about five months.

In Hebrew: ‘Rainforest’

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

יַעַר גֶּשֶׁם A rainforest is a place of astounding beauty and biodiversity. Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen, according to Wikipedia.

The Hebrew term for rainforest is a literal translation of the English – יַעַר גֶּשֶׁם, where יער means forest and גשם means rain.

An example in context:

“לִפְעָמִים קוֹרְאִים לְיַעֲרוֹת הַגֶּשֵׁם “הָרֵאוֹת שֶׁל הָעוֹלָם
The rainforests are sometimes called “the lungs of the earth.”
Visit Ktzat Ivrit.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/ktzat-ivrit/in-hebrew-rainforest/2013/05/08/

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