Is just one less bag enough?
“One less bag!” That was our slogan back in 2008 when we urged the public to reduce its use of disposable shopping bags. In large retail chains, alone, Israelis use about 2.5 billion plastic bags annually, with about a billion more handed out in small shops and open markets. While they’re used for an average of just 20 minutes, they last for hundreds of years, marring our open spaces, threatening wildlife and polluting the sea and seashore.
Among the activities of our public campaign were prime-time TV public service spots, information stands on city streets and the introduction of legislation aimed at outlawing the free distribution of plastic bags. The public was quick to understand, but the surveys we conducted showed that voluntary action without the force of law would be ineffective in Israel. There are various ways to deal with this matter, from a blanket ban on using plastic bags to outlawing free distribution and charging a fee for their distribution. But, the overriding goal is the same: to change the way we think about using plastic bags.
Beautiful Israel lobbied the Knesset and the government to formulate what we considered win-win legislation, but politics follows rules of its own:
every time it seemed that progress had been made, one political crisis or another would cause a government to fall, replaced by a new government with new ministers –
and new agendas. As a result, the proposed plastic bag law was constantly bounced back and forth and constantly revised. But, we kept on pushing for its passage.
Now, finally, a new version of the law, closer than ever to the original, is being debated in the Knesset’s interior committee, pending a final vote in the plenum.
It will evidently include a levy of 10 Agorot (2.5 US cents) for each bag.
While the resultant reduction in plastic bag use may not as large as we hoped,
after so many years of wasted discussion, we’re hoping to see this bill passed into law,
helping put an end to one of the ugliest aspects of this age of conspicuous consumption.