Ministers vote to scrap tax on disposable plasticware, pending Knesset approval

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

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

Government ministers vote in favor of scrapping a tax on disposable plasticware, a key demand of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

“We promised and fulfilled,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich says. “The fight against the cost of living is all of our fight.”

The move is pending Knesset approval.

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

In November 2021, the previous government raised the cost of disposable plastic plates, bowls, cups, and straws by NIS 11 shekels ($3.20) per kilogram with the aim of cutting use by 40 percent.

This drew the ire of the ultra-Orthodox community, where use of disposable plastic is disproportionately high.

Earlier this month, in his first act in office, Smotrich instructed ministry officials to reverse the tax hike, sparking uproar from environmental activists and others.

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman votes against canceling the tax.

She says in a statement that while she understands the need to respect coalition agreements, which include scrapping the levy, disposal plastic use causes “huge” environmental and health-related damage.

“We will formulate the best alternative for all the citizens of Israel,” Silman says.

Silman argues that from the very start, Israel should have instituted a “gradual process” rather than imposing a decision that “arouses antagonism toward a particular population,” though she was chief whip of the coalition that approved the tax.

She adds: “Since the tax has proven itself and resulted in a significant reduction in consumption and the reduction of environmental and health damage caused by the use of disposable utensils… this taxation should not be abolished without a suitable alternative.”

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