The southern city of Eilat has decided to ban disposable cups and bags from its beaches to protect the Red Sea from the “threat” of plastic, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
The amendment to the city’s municipal code, which was approved late on Wednesday, makes the resort Israel’s first to adopt such regulations.
Beach-goers will be forbidden from bringing disposable items onto the beach, whether made of plastic, aluminium, cardboard or paper.
Such items will not be sold at kiosks or restaurants by the shore.
Whether cutlery, cups, bags, wrappings or drinking straws, “disposable items break down into particles of various sizes on land and in the sea, harming terrestrial and aquatic animals” and constituting an eyesore, the text accompanying the new bylaw said.
In the absence of national legislation on the issue, Israel’s beach resorts have taken the initiative, with the Mediterranean coastal city of Herzliya preparing similar regulations.
“Eilat has unique natural resources,” Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy said in a statement. “We must safeguard them in every way.”
The bylaw, which exempts bottles, needs to be approved by the interior ministry before taking effect.
The city proposes to fine offenders up to 730 shekels ($210, 190 euros).
Israel lags behind the European Union in phasing out the use of disposable plastic.
Maya Jacobs, CEO of Zalul, an environmental NGO dedicated to protecting Israel’s seas and rivers, praised Eilat’s move, which she called “groundbreaking.”
She urged all of Israel’s coastal cities to adopt similar measures but said Eilat’s ban example was particularly important because of the coral reef that lies a short distance from the beach.
“It’s an area that must be protected, especially with the rare corals,” Jacobs told AFP.
Coral populations around the world are undergoing bleaching and dying due to global warming, but the population in the northern Red Sea has remained stable due to its unique heat resistance.