Photo Credit: Noel Bauza / Pixabay

The upcoming week of Hanukkah will bring with it a new period of change for the Israeli consumer: distribution of canvas grocery bags at the local supermarket.

A nationwide law goes into effect on January 1, 2017, that mandates grocery store chains to charge the customer 10 agorot for each disposable plastic bag used to bag their purchases at the cash register.


Only supermarket chains are affected by the new law, which does not include open air markets and small corner stores – known as makolets in Hebrew – or, for that matter, dry goods or clothing stores. For that matter, it also doesn’t include the plastic bags used for produce.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has echoed the concerns of other environmental agencies worldwide, warning Israelis, “Plastic bags turn into garbage and pollute the environment, particularly the open areas and the ocean.”

According to the Pacific Regional Environment Program, the amount of petroleum it would take to make 14 plastic bags would allow one to drive a car approximately one mile, or 1.6 kilometers.

According to the’ Reuse This Bag’ website, between 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, including 380 billion in the United States alone.

Plastic is the largest source of ocean litter, and plastic bags are among the items most commonly found in coastal cleanups. In fact, a plastic bag can take up to a thousand years to break down in the environment, according to the ‘Big Fat Bags’ website.

Approximately 94 percent of all birds tested have been found with plastic in their stomachs, which has also been found in those of many endangered species. At least 267 different species of animals have suffered as a result of ingestion of plastic, or entanglement with the substance.

Reusable canvas bags will be given free to each customer starting the last week in December 2016 and on through the first two weeks of January 2017, according to how much their purchase.

Here’s the distribution scale: NIS 100 to NIS 249 = 1 free bag NIS 250 to NIS 449 = 2 free bags NIS 400 to NIS 499 = 3 free bags NIS 500 to NIS 749 = 4 free bags NIS 750 + = 5 free bags

It’s really only been since the 1980s, that Israel began using plastic bags in the grocery stores and supermarkets. Older Israelis can still remember the days when they shoved their collapsible — and unbelievably expandable — cotton shopping bags into their pockets or handbags before getting on the bus to go to the market.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.