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Over 1,000 Israelis complain about stores refusing to comply with bottle deposit law

Of 1,176 complaints involving 7,792 bottles in December-January, the highest number came from Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh

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

A man sorting bottles for recycling in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, February 1, 2022. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
A man sorting bottles for recycling in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, February 1, 2022. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

More than a thousand Israelis have complained about stores refusing to honor an expanded bottle deposit program during the first two months of its operation, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported Sunday.

Of the 1,176 complaints involving attempts to deposit 7,792 bottles, the highest number came from Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak (near Tel Aviv), and Beit Shemesh (near Jerusalem).

The complaints were made during December and January to a hotline set up by the ministry in conjunction with the Israel Consumer Council.

Since 2001, when the government passed the Deposit Law on Beverage Containers, a refundable sum — currently 30 agorot ($0.09) — has been added to the cost of all drink cans, along with glass and plastic bottles containing 100 milliliters (3.4 fluid ounces) to 1.5 liters (1.6 quarts) of beverage, to encourage people to return them after use.

In October 2020, then-environmental protection minister Gila Gamliel announced that the law would be expanded to drink containers of between 1.5 and 5 liters (1.6 to 5.3 quarts).

She gave the drinks companies and retailers a year to prepare for the changes.

The expanded law came into effect under Gamliel’s successor, current minister Tamar Zandberg, on December 1.

Some stores have purchased bottle deposit machines.

A man recycling plastic bottles in a bottle deposit machine at the Yochananof supermarket in Tel Aviv on December 1, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The ministry reported that 96% of the complaints were found to be justified and said the offending retailers had been contacted and cash returned to many of those who complained.

In 196 cases, the ministry’s “Green Police” were brought in. Up to the end of January, the Green Police took part in enforcement proceedings against 624 stores and 48 bottle importers, and issued 46 fines, according to the report.

Most complaints were about stores refusing to take beverage containers back or  provide refunds in cash. Some stores were limiting the days and hours when bottles and cans could be returned.

Half-liter plastic bottles were the most commonly refused, followed by small glass bottles, tin cans, and 1.5-liter plastic bottles.

Nearly a quarter of complaints (24 percent) were about stores refusing to take bottles on Sundays, the first day of the working week in Israel.

Among stores that were the subject of complaints in Jerusalem, branches of the Zol U’Begadol and Maayan 2000 chains featured several times.

In Tel Aviv, branches of Super Yuda and AM:PM came up on many occasions.

The bottle deposit hotline can be reached at 03-5100190.

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