The Ministry of Environmental Protection has reported an 80% reduction in the use of disposable plastic bags in the first quarter of 2017. The ministry's figures show that major retailers sold 55 million plastics bags at NIS 0.10 per bag in the first quarter, while the major retailers bought over 280 million plastic bags in the fourth quarter for distribution, for which consumers did not pay directly. The law requiring consumers to pay supermarkets for disposable plastic bags went into effect in January 2017.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection reported that most major retailers had reported reductions of 80-90%, while the two largest had reported reductions of less than 55%.
The law requiring a NIS 0.10 charge per plastic bag for consumers applies only to the large supermarket chains. When the law finally went into effect after long delays, the low price charged for bags was criticized by those who said that it would not deter people from using them and would not educate consumers to use reusable shopping bags. The current figures, however, show that the price being charged for disposable bags, which is much lower than in European countries, for example, has caused a change in consumer behavior. At the same time, pharmacy chains, grocery stores, and minimarkets are unaffected by the law.
The NIS 5.5 million collected by supermarkets from the sale of plastic bags is being deposited in a cleaning fund for purposes stipulated by the law, including the encouragement of reusable bags, education and public relations about the goals of the law, and cleaning operations.
The law also states that the major retailers must report the volume of plastic bags used to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Seven of the 22 major retailers required to report under the law have not yet made their report.
"The Ministry of Environmental Protection will enforce the law using all the means at its disposal with respect to the major retailers who did not make the legally required reports, or whose reports were inadequate, and which therefore did not deposit the charges for the bags in the cleaning fund, raising a suspicion that they did not pay VAT on the bags, as required by law. In addition, the ministry will begin a thorough accounting audit, to be conducted by external accounting firms, in order to verify the figures and propriety of the retailers' reports to the ministry," the announcement said.
Minister of Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin said that the figures "show complete success on an international scale in reducing the use of disposable plastic bags. An 80% reduction among the major retailers is the European Union target for 2020, for which it has prepared for five years. I am proud of the Israeli public for realizing the importance of this issue, and changing its behavior at supermarket checkout stands."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on May 25, 2017
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