Spotlight: Israel to impose deposit fees on large beverage bottles despite opposition from industry

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by Nick Kolyohin

JERUSALEM, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) stated that it would implement deposit fees on beverage bottles larger than 1.5-liter despite the pressure from drink industry and supermarkets.

Gila Gamliel, Israel's environmental protection minister, stated on Sunday that "it is a historic moment in Israel to apply a deposit fee on large bottles, although there are tremendous pressures from so many interested parties."

Amiad Lapidot, director of the waste management and recycling department at Adam Teva VeDin (The Israel Union for Environmental Defense), told Xinhua that it is a brave move that Gamliel did what former ministers avoided because they didn't want to confront with drink companies.

The essence of the deposit law is that the ones who produce products, such as bottles that eventually become garbage, shall be responsible for taking care of it, said Lapidot.

Adam Teva VeDin is an Israeli union that for many years has endeavored to pass the deposit law and include all sizes of beverage containers in it.

Alon Tal, a founder of Adam Teva VeDin and a professor in the department of public policy at Tel Aviv University, said that the large bottles should have been part of the law from the very beginning, as "this is a long-overdue decision because the world faces a plastic crisis."

When Tal has begun trying to promote and write laws about deposit and plastic bottles in general, there was a very successful lobbying effort by supermarkets that didn't want the logistical headache of taking the bottles.

Tal told Xinhua that when the deposit law on small bottles passed in 2001, the members of the Israeli parliament promised the next year to include large bottles as well in the law, but eventually it took about 20 years.

Yet it will take another year before the new amendment will be enforced due to the COVID-19 crisis and the need for preparation of required logistics for the collection process. Each large bottle will be due to a refund of 0.3 NIS (0.09 U.S. dollars), the same refund as small bottles already have.

Consumers have the right to ask for refunds on up to 50 bottles each time they bring them back to stores that sell those beverages or to use automated deposit machines that will be distributed at supermarkets, schools, gas stations, and public places.

The MoEP will publish a draft of the activation order for public comments and after the order will be submitted to the Israeli parliament for approval.

Gamliel stressed that the best way to clean public spaces out of large empty bottles and promote their recycling is by applying a deposit on them. The deposit fee must be clearly visible on the bottles, in writing that cannot be removed.

Gamliel said that it is the right step both environmentally and economically, which will save money for consumers, "it is a win-win-win situation for the environment, society and the economy."

Large bottles are about 36 percent of the sales in Israel, but they are responsible for around 77 percent of the plastic amount of all consumed bottles because of their big size. The total weight of annually consumed bottles in the country is approximately 37 tons.

Generally, plastic products are about 60 percent of all litter in public spaces of Israel, and for nearly one-third of that responsible the beverage bottles of all sizes, according to data released by the MoEP.

Before the current amendment, manufacturers and importers of the beverage bottles were required to establish a collection scheme on a voluntary basis with a target of reaching at least a 55 percent return rate of the large bottles.

Although of spreading over 20,000 cages for plastic bottles on the streets of Israel, just about one-third of the bottles were collected that way, according to MoEP data.

Israel is consuming over two billion plastic bottles each year, and the target is to collect at least 77 percent of all the large bottles in five years and recycle at least 90 percent of them.

Nowadays, just around 54 percent of large bottles are collected on a voluntary basis or rescued with a high cost of work at sorting garbage facilities, in comparison to about 80 percent return of refundable small bottles, according to MoEP.

The deposit law is part of legislation that make up the extended producer responsibility system in Israel, which imposes on companies the responsibility of a product's entire life cycle. Similar law systems also include used tires, product packaging, electrical products, electronic equipment, and batteries.

Plastic bottles could stay thousands of years in the ground or even worse in the oceans. Israel has the second-highest concentration of microplastic contaminants in the water, stressed Tal.

Those microplastic contaminants get into food chain ecosystems, fish eats them and then humans eat fish.

"We need to stop using so much plastic", concluded Tal. Enditem

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