In a bid to drive down Israel’s plastic waste, the Finance Ministry and Environmental Protection Ministry announced Monday a plan to impose a tax on disposable plasticware.
The 100 percent tax — which would go into effect in early 2022, pending Knesset approval — could see the price of plastic plates, cups, straws and containers double.
Israelis spend NIS 2 billion annually on plasticware, with the amount per person nearly five times that of EU residents, the ministries said in a joint statement.
The new tax, the details of which have yet to be finalized, is expected to reduce purchases of the environmentally harmful items by 40 percent, the statement said.
“Like many countries around the world that are taking steps to reduce the use of single-use plastics, we also have a duty to take steps to reduce the use of these items, while leading a significant consumer behavioral change,” Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said, announcing the proposal.
“The decision we are making today is another step on the way to a greener country that is also aligned with the standards in the other developed countries in the world,” he said.
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.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg likened the proposed new tax to those on cigarettes and alcohol, saying that the “use of disposable plastic is also an addiction.”
She argued that the tax was fair on consumers along the lines of “the polluter pays” principle.
“Whoever chooses to consume a high volume of disposable utensils will bear the most significant costs,” she said.
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 plasticware.