Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / FLASH90
A Hareidi man instinctively recycles one of his plastic shopping bags into a hat protector from the rain.

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.

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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.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Practically speaking, how will they charge for them when you don't know how many you are going to take until you're packing and that's well after you've finished paying the bill? It's like the "deposit" they started charging for glass bottles. Just another tax because who can shlep around a bag full of glass bottles to find a place to turn them infor the depost when yo're walking to a bus stop and rising a bus and changing buses. It's just not worth it. And neither is using cloth bags.

  2. Speaking about Plastic you know what-s-ki, California just instituted something like this and if they do it here … well, that 'raw' stuff will be shuttled into the garbage cans and they won't be properly emptied hen the truck comes around the stench swill will swell up the streets…good intentions are sometimes paved with zaevel.

  3. There are two ways to recicle the plastic bags, first, the plastic bags prosucers has to use a masterbatch to make bio-degradable the plastic bags and are good for the landfill, second, the plastic bags to send to refinery, at 400 C. grades wil transform in fossil fuels like diesel, oil, or fuel and other derivates, that is the best ways to recycle the plastic bags.

  4. I live in California in a city that banned plastic bags from grocery store over 3 years ago. Based on the success of northern ca cities we now have a state wide ban. We do a yearly river clean up, and in the first year of the plastic bag ban at supermarkets there 71% less trash to clean up. (yes most of the trash was plastic bags and stuff in the plastic bags). other cities had similar results. Our Marine Mammal Center which treats injured sea life has less birds to treat (many were ill due to plastic ingestion. Used plastic bags were collected at our supermarkets before and made into benches so it was not a garbage problem. Cheep, thin easy to come by bags were just treated as a valueless object and were a wildlife hazard. now people use all kinds of clever things they threw away before, like bread bags and plastic bags from empty cereal boxes for pet waste. Its possible Ca law is a bit more sensible, we can by paper bags made from post consumer recycles paper at the supermarket for 10 cents,the money goes to the store to pay for the paper bag, and those o food stamps get free paper bags. We also get special bags for meat and things that should not touch our reusable bags. For us in Ca plastic bag bans at supermarkets are working out fine.

  5. No sympathy with you on this. Here in Ontario Canada I regularly buy cloth bags for a dollar to replenish my 'collection'. I get the impression from what I read in the Israeli press no one really takes nature very seriously, unless it has to do with medicine and hospitals. That's a real pity since this is an area of political and real action where you could stand with other primarily democratic nations in building living spaces which are part of nature's cycles rather than opposed to them.

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