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Shoppers clear supermarket shelves ahead of price hike

Disposable plasticware prices soar as new tax introduced

Environment Ministry says higher levies on single-use cutlery, dishes could cut purchases by 40%; Minister Zandberg: ‘Israel’s addicted to disposable plastic and it’s time to quit’

Disposable plastic tableware for sale in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Disposable plastic tableware for sale in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a bid to drive down Israel’s plastic waste, the government on Monday introduced a new tax on disposable plasticware aimed at doubling the price of plastic cutlery and crockery for Israeli consumers.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said that the new tax — an increase of 11 shekels per kilogram of single-use plastics — would “double the final price for the consumer and thus reduce the consumption of these polluting products.”

The tax will apply to plastic plates, bowls, cups, and straws.

Israelis spend NIS 2 billion annually on plasticware, with the amount used per person nearly five times that of EU residents, the ministry said in a statement.

The new tax is expected to reduce purchases of the environmentally harmful items by 40 percent, the statement said.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg likened the new tax to those on cigarettes and alcohol, saying that “Israel is addicted to disposable plastic and it is time to quit.”

Newly appointed Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg at a handover ceremony at the Environmental Protection Ministry in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

She argued that the tax was fair on consumers along the lines of “the polluter pays” principle.

“The benefit of disposable containers is short-term for the consumers who purchase them, but they produce environmental damage that the entire economy suffers from, for many years to come,” Zandberg said in the Monday statement.

In the run-up to the Sunday midnight application of the new tax, supermarkets across the country reported consumers making mass purchases of disposable plasticware, with many shelves left empty due to the high demand before the price hike.

Tweeting a photo of himself washing a mug Sunday night, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said there was, “No need to wait in long lines and pounce on the disposables, you just need to stock up on dishwashing liquid.”

Israel is the second biggest per capita consumer of single-use plastic in the world and 90 percent of its beach trash is plastic.

Tel Aviv has the third-highest amount of plastic pollution on its coastline among cities in 22 Mediterranean countries, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, with an average of 21 kilograms (46 pounds) of plastic debris per kilometer of coastline.

Plastics that end up in the seas and ocean are an increasingly common problem, killing maritime wildlife, contaminating fish and seafood entering the food chain, and leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of loss in tourism and maritime-related industries.

According to a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute in November 2019, Israelis are eager to change their ways, with most in favor of a state ban on disposable tableware.

In the absence of national legislation on the issue, some local authorities have moved to phase out single-use plastics in schools and kindergartens and a number of privately owned stores have also voluntarily stopped using disposable plasticware.

Disposable plastic tableware for sale in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, October 27, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In addition to the new tax on plasticware, the price of gasoline rose by 23 agorot (approximately 7 cents) at midnight on Sunday, marking a 3.6 percent rise in the cost of fuel from a self-service pump.

The new price of NIS 6.62 ($2) per liter of 95 octane gasoline (including VAT), continued an upward trend since May last year, when the price was NIS 4.79 ($1.4).

While the new price broke a three-year high, it was still far from the record of NIS 8.25 ($2.65) in 2012.

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