Israel’s Technion to ban most disposable plastic from October 1

Review finds that during 2019, Haifa institute bought over 2.3 million disposable cups, nearly a million single-use teaspoons and hundreds of thousands of other single-use items.

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Disposable plastic forks (Ewloskalw, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)
Disposable plastic forks (Ewloskalw, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology announced Monday that from October 1, it will no longer buy disposable plastic utensils and it moves to boost its sustainability practices.

“This is a comprehensive move that encompasses the Technion as a whole, and its implications are far-reaching. In the past few years, the Technion has shifted into high gear in all aspects touching upon sustainability,” said Technion Vice President and CEO Prof. Boaz Golani,

The decision follows a lengthy review by the university, in the northern city of Haifa, which revealed that during 2019, it bought more than 2.3 million disposable cups, almost one million disposable teaspoons and hundreds of thousands of other single-use items. Today, disposable utensils account for around nine percent of waste on campus, and the present move is intended both to reduce the amount of waste and to reduce the associated expenses.

The announcement coincided with another, by the Finance and Environmental Protection ministries, of a plan to impose a tax on disposable plasticware.

Israelis spend NIS 2 billion (more than $600 million) 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 environmentally harmful items by 40 percent.

Campus of the The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, northern Israel. (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia)

The Technion will provide guidance on more environmentally friendly alternatives to disposables.

For the time being, the rule will exclude cafeterias and small, on-campus events, although there too, reusable crockery and cutlery will be encouraged.

The move is being led by the Technion’s Sustainability Hub under the academic guidance of Prof. Daniel Orenstein, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, who has researched sustainability at universities, and the Hub’s coordinator, Dr. Ronit Cohen Seffer.

Orenstein said: “Our view of sustainability and material consumption is holistic and encompasses all potential responses: reduce, reuse and recycle. There is no doubt that recycling is important, but reuse and reduction are especially important goals because they prevent pollution already at the production phase.”

Toxic substances and greenhouse gases are emitted already at the production stage of these goods, with transportation adding to the pollution.

“It is important to place consumption habits in a much broader context, which is the attempt to minimize damage to the environment on all fronts: energy, waste, land pollution, water and air pollution and more,” said Orenstein.

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