If law passes, plastic bag would cost 60 agorot each; customers would receive free reusable baskets.

Environmental Minister Amir Peretz will be submitting to the government in the coming days a bill that would prohibit the free distribution of plastic bags, the ministry announced on Tuesday night.

If passed into law, the legislation would mandate that disposable plastic bags cost 60 agorot apiece, with the accumulated funds going toward establishing recycling and waste treatment facilities, the Environment Ministry said. In order to minimize hassles to consumers, at the beginning of the process, shoppers would receive free reusable baskets as a substitute for the plastic bags, the ministry added.

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“The time has come to be part of the advanced countries whose citizens have realized that the small convenience they received from free plastic bags in the past created severe harm to the environment and great damage to future generations,” Peretz said. “I am sure that the supermarket chains and Israeli citizens will be partners in this important process.”

Each year, supermarkets spend about NIS 80 million on plastic bags, which has as a result caused a “roll-up” in prices on various products sold, according to the ministry. In addition, polls conducted by the ministry have indicated that more than 70 percent of the public support for the cease in free plastic bag distribution, which damage the terrestrial and marine environments.

Plastic bags that come in direct contact with food such as vegetable and grains will be excluded from the law, as occurs in much of Europe, the ministry said.

If the bill passes, the Environment Ministry intends to launch a public awareness campaign to discourage the use of plastic bags. Violations of the law would result in fines amounting to up to NIS 20,000-60,000, the ministry added.