MK clash on taxes for disposable utensils and sugary drinks

Israel’s new tax on disposable utensils that took effect on November 1 was debated in a noisy Finance Committee meeting on Monday. The meeting ended without a vote.

The new legislation taxes disposable plastic utensils, including glasses, plates, bowls, silverware and straws, at NIS 11 per kilogram. However, objections have been raised that lawmakers did not have a sufficient opportunity to debate the change.

A similar debate is expected for a tax on sugary drinks that is scheduled to take effect on January 1.

In September, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman moved the proposed taxes on disposable utensils and sugary drinks out of the Economic Arrangements Act that accompanied the budget into his own laws. That would have paved the way for the bills to pass, as they would only need to be approved by the finance minister, the head of the Israel Tax Authority, and the Knesset Finance Committee, which is headed by MK Alex Kushnir. , member of Liberman. Yisrael Beitenu Party.

Implementation of the disposable property tax was moved to Nov. 1 to prevent people from hoarding assets before the deadline. However, the Haredi MPs were able to convince Knesset Chairman Mickey Levy to request a hearing on the matter.

Liberman and Zandberg Announce New Disposable Utensil Tax Initiative (Credit: Courtesy)

Since the Haredi community uses plastic items to a greater extent than the rest of society, many ultra-Orthodox politicians have attacked the measure for discriminating against them.

“Even if your goal is to fix the world, you must do so with compassion,” said Likud MK Shlomo Karhi. “The one who gets hurt here is the mother who will have to wash the dishes for an hour and a half at night.”

Israelis are known to be some of the largest consumers of disposable plastics in the world. They throw away around 70,000 tonnes of plastics every year and spend about NIS 2b. on these elements, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The new tax, which roughly doubles the price of many items, will reduce their use by about 40%, the Finance Ministry said.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg made it clear that she intends to pass the tax and possibly completely ban plastic utensils in Israel in the future.

“Israel is addicted to disposable plastic, especially tableware, and it is time to get rid of it,” he said. “In the EU they chose to completely ban the use of many types of disposable plastic, and most likely the State of Israel will do so as well. At this stage, we did not choose to ban it.”

Zandberg emphasized that the tax was intended to change public behavior, not increase tax revenue, and rejected the charge that it was motivated by religious politics. “I implore you, my fellow Knesset members, that this is a vital and necessary step for the environment and our children.”

The debate on the tax on sugary drinks was also on Monday’s agenda. The plan calls for beverages with high sugar levels to be taxed at NIS 1.30 per liter. Diet soft drinks and those with less added sugar, such as flavored waters, will be taxed at 70 agorot per liter.

That tax would deter people from consuming the most beverages, which are considered major contributors to obesity and deadly medical conditions like diabetes and cancer, and damage to the liver, heart and kidneys. Some 40 countries around the world have implemented similar measures and have managed to reduce consumption by between 20% and 50%, according to the World Health Organization.

Dudi Manevitz, president of the Food Industries Association of the Manufacturers Association, denounced that the tax is based on inaccurate information. “The OECD data that we have in our possession clearly shows that Israel’s consumption of sugar in food and beverages is the lowest of all OECD countries, the Western world and developed countries (except Japan),” he said. . “We therefore call for an end to useless taxes, which will not be helpful in reducing the volume of sugar consumption and will only harm Israeli consumers, who are already facing the rising cost of living in Israel.”

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