What’s wrong with plastic?
Plastic is a persistent material containing toxic chemicals; it never goes away. Plastic waste increases greenhouse gas emissions, endangers wildlife, and pollutes the open spaces and the marine environment.
Some facts and figures about plastic in Israel
- Israelis produce 1,700 tons of plastic waste per day, or 625,000 tons per year.
- Only 14% of plastic waste produced is recycled; 60% goes to landfills and rest finds its way to open spaces, such as the beaches, seas and natural parks.
- In 2019, the National Marine Waste Monitoring Report revealed that nearly 75% of trash in Israel’s territorial waters (Red Sea and Mediterranean) is from plastic bags and packaging.
- 90% of the pollution on our beaches is derived from plastic.
Israelis spend over $600 million every year on Single Use Plastic (SUP)
Israelis love Single-Use Plastic (SUP). It’s convenient and it’s everywhere. There is no kids’ party, family gathering or picnic that doesn’t involve disposable plastic plates and utensils. And over 2 billion disposable plastic bags are distributed in retail outlets, every year. That’s in addition to the 1.7 billion disposable drinking bottles sold annually. In fact, Israelis generate more than 100 kg (220 lbs.) of plastic waste per person very year.
Currently, much of this SUP quickly finds its way onto our beaches, into the Mediterranean, our streets, parks and nature reserves. Although littering the environment may be a fineable offense, authorities have failed to curb the spread of plastic waste. Highly invested public campaigns do little to discourage plastic littering.
In the Mediterranean, plastic pollution has been found in 20% of sampled fish since 2015. Microplastics have been found in local drinking water, food and sewage. The scope and severity of the threat to public health in Israel has not yet been thoroughly assessed. There is worldwide consensus that plastic pollution is one of the most serious environmental problems facing humanity in the 21st century.
Other countries, particularly in Europe, have come to the conclusion that the plastic problem requires special measures: legislation.
Do we need a Plastics Law?
Yes, we do. We know from experience that a legislative framework obliges the Israeli government to deal with the issue by drafting a national strategy, gathering statistics and devising tools and incentives to encourage change, and obliges it to set targets and schedules. A Plastics Law will help bring about changes in attitudes, consumer habits and will drive innovation in recycling and development of new products and job opportunities.
We know that legislation makes a difference. In 2017, a Plastic Bags Law, initiated and drafted by Adam Teva V’Din, brought about a dramatic reduction in the number of plastic bags handed to customers of the major supermarket chains. A levy on each bag is transferred to the Fund for the Maintenance of Cleanliness operated by the Ministry for Environmental Protection. We are currently campaigning for the regulations to be expanded to include smaller supermarkets and local groceries. Customer demand for plastic bags at the checkout has been sharply curtailed because the levy serves as a deterrent to taking more than is needed.
In 2020, our lawsuit against the Minister for Environmental Protection for failure to comply with the terms of the Beverage Container Deposit Law (‘the bottle bill’) caused the Minister to expand the law to include previously exempt family size disposable plastic bottles, and to introduce a nationwide automated network of bottle collection points by the end of 2021.
Coming soon: Single-Use Plastic Law
At Adam Teva V’Din we’re working in 2021 on a Single-Use Plastic legislative bill that, like the EU SUP Directive, calls for a ‘circular economy’ system promoting reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of resources, in direct contrast to the traditional ‘take, make, and dispose’ model of production. Incorporating plastic waste into a circular economy will significantly reduce waste, pollution and carbon emissions.
Adam Teva V’Din’s bill comprises important parts of the Environment Ministry’s long-term strategic shift to relating to plastic as a resource to be reused and recycled.