The Bank of Israel is advocating the extension of the NIS 0.10 fee for plastic bags to neighborhood grocery stores, small supermarket chains, and Super-Pharm, in view of its success in reducing the use of plastic bags by 80% at the large supermarket chains. In its current form, the fee does not apply to grocery stores and small supermarkets, which still distribute an estimated 860 million plastic bags a year.
The results of the fee show that wherever it is applied, the number of bags drops by 80%, regardless of the amount of the fee. Before the fee was imposed, supermarkets in Israel distributed two billion plastic bags a year, amounting to 275 bags per capita, a higher figure than in other countries worldwide. Plastic bags are made of material that does not decompose for hundreds of years, making the problem a very troublesome one for the environmental watchdogs. The decision to impose a special fee on the bags follows the positive results achieved when such a fee was imposed in other countries. Ireland was the first, imposing a NIS 0.50-0.70 fee in 2002. The fee was expanded to all the countries in the British Isles in 2011-2015, but the amount was much less - NIS 0.25. All of these countries, however, recorded an 80% reduction in consumption of plastic bags.
The law, which became effective in Israel in January 2017, set a NIS 0.10 fee for each plastic bag sold at supermarkets belonging to the 21 largest chains. Together with a steep fall in the proportion of people using disposable bag, there was an impressive rise in the proportion of using reusable bags from 28% to 70%. A breakdown of the purchase of plastic bags by income shows that there is no difference between different income levels in the lower use of plastic bags, except for communities belonging to the lowest income deciles (2 and 3), where the drop in use of plastic bags was 60-70%. As for the amount of the fee, the Bank of Israel cited a survey showing that 9% of consumers reported that they had stopped buying plastic bags because they were too expensive. Two thirds said that they had stopped taking plastic bags because of the fee charged for them. 50% said that environmental considerations had affected their decision to stop using plastic bags, and 25% reported that they had been influenced by social pressure, which made the bags "no longer pleasant to take."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on March 25, 2018
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