Plastic For Free



When I moved to Israel I started to understand, that not everywhere in the world things are going the same way. I grew up in Germany, where the convenience of a quiet and more or less unworried life, enables politicians to talk and act in terms of environment. Water saving, recycling and other environmental issues were familiar to me and my friends. I never really thought about it, it was just part of my daily life.

Due to this background, my first shopping tour in the small super market around the corner of my apartment in Tel Aviv was a big surprise. The cashier took all my things and stuffed them in several plastic bags. Taking her job seriously, she used at least 5 bags for the few things, to be sure that none of my bags will rip. Finally I ended up with 5 bags (one carried only my organic eggs, which by the way were wrapped in Styrofoam) for which I didn’t even have to pay a single cent.

Still this was nothing compared to what followed during my first visit at Shuka Karmel, the vegetable market in Tel Aviv. Overwhelmed by the oriental way of bargaining, the shouting and the huge balagan, I followed my boyfriend, watching him dealing with the shop owners. But again, each sort of vegetable went straight to it’s own plastic bag, and all of them in the end together in a larger bag.

Now, despite all the ways of recycling you can find for plastic bags, I drowned in them already after a short while.

Pulling the emergency stop, I remembered what I learned at home and tried to fit it to my new home. My first step was my good old cotton bag, which I always took with me for shopping. For me it is such a normal thing, which always was part of my shopping life. Maybe not, only because of the advice of my organic-addicted mum, but also because each plastic bag cost me in Germany around 30 cents. Even though that’s not an incredibly high price, still you think twice and prefer to bring your own bag than to spend the money every time. It is just so much easier.

I guess one of the first Hebrew sentences I learned was: “Ani lo zricha sakit!” which means: I don’t need a bag. Now after a while, the cashiers in my small supermarket know me and don’t offer me a bag anymore.

Later on I tried to take all my old plastic bags to the market, or I collect all of the vegetables in a box, carrying them like this to the cash. It didn’t work out as well as I thought, because the guy on the cash didn’t want to give up for his own convenience to weigh the products part by part in bags.

Amazed by this plastic-bag behaviour, I had some discussions with Israeli friends. Most of them agreed with me, but never thought about it before. The news of Haaretz (posted by Karin in Treehugger) and this article of Ynet show, that there are changes going on and that the plastic bags issue is gaining importance. Good news.

Still I understood by this, that the awareness of environment is different in each country. Now that climate change is everywhere in the media, I am sure that more and more people will talk about this issue, but there is still a lot to do. For this I believe that especially education is very, very important. Then everyone can do some small changes in his daily life. You don’t need to be a green-junkie that grows his own food, has a compost on the balcony and just wears cloth from the organic cotton of the Galilee (even though it is an option), but small things can be easy to do —  like shopping with your own bag.

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14 thoughts on “Plastic For Free”

  1. Shmoko says:

    Hi Claudia
    Great article
    But why do everyone say they will post something (videos, how to make cotton bags, etc) and no one really do so.

  2. sally r. kirsch says:

    i’ve been concerned,even obsessed with the lack of recycling in my native new jersey(with its’ most unpleasant reputation and environmental issues),even with 5 small children,i ended up with the tiniest pail of non recyclable garbage;we had to separate every type of glass ,aluminum,plastic,paper.had i been a composter then(as i am now),i’d probably have one pail of garbage every month!
    now,here is my question to you,why does israel not mandate and charge a deposit on all bottles ,bags and cans(not just the small bottles) ?would the average consumer pay a shekel per plastic bag,or would they buy verrrry few,bring,conserve or pass on bags altogether?why are there no glass or aluminum recycling cages available to the people?
    i don’t believe other countries are neccessarily greener.most people i know in other green regions of the world,recycle because they’re afraid of the incurred fines and because of the savings in their short they can’t afford NOT to.why is this extremely effective method of getting “cooperation” overlooked?

  3. We would love a how-to post for making your own bags. Do share!

  4. Claudia says:

    Second hand is great. Another simple way is do-it-yourself from old cloth or cotton you buy. I can post a step by step post soon. It is really simple.

    If you want it a little bit more high-tec you can go to Soho (design shop in Dizengoff-Center). The sell this bags that are supposed to be very stable. But I have no idea about the material and where/how they were made.

    I also saw in Heschel Center that they sold some cotton bags when I visited their library. Maybe they still do. Worth to ask:
    [email protected]


  5. karin says:

    Great post Claudia. Any idea where people can buy environmentally-friendly, fair-trade, non-SuperSol re-usable non-polluting bags?

    This green stuff can be complicated, eh?

    I prefer to buy stuff second-hand, or raid my parent’s closet…

  6. Avi says:

    first, “Shuka Karmel” – seems so godamn’ funny this way 🙂

    secondly, someone mentioned the superCheap reusable bags sold at SuperSol stors………. yes they are cheap, but keep in mind that these “eco” bag were made in horrible conditions, most likely by underaged teens in china.

    There’s a reason such bags which are fair-trade certified cost a “little bit” (or 10 times as much) more in Europe and the states.
    So basically I’d say it pretty much has no relevance or purpose, it’s just a move by a ignorant company making ignorant moves about an world they obviously know nothing of.


  7. Zalul says:

    Check out the petition being put forth by Zalul, Green Course, Adam Teva V’Din, and other environmental NGOS to charge for plastic bags and encourage multi-use bags instead:


  8. James says:

    I recently brought back from the UK some organic cotton shopping bags for a Carbon Audit project I’m about to launch. These bags are made by the Co-op, a good, greenish neighbourhood Uk store, and I think they are also Fairtrade. I’ve got 2 to spare, so if any Green Prophets out there want to look super stylish as they shop, get in touch ………………..

  9. swimfast says:

    We must not forget to applaud SuperSol, who has recently been selling their own polyester reusable bags for only about three sheckles (75 cents), often large enough to carry all of my groceries.

  10. Bags in outter space? That is crazy…

  11. James says:

    Hi Claudia – great heartfelt post post. Thank you.
    Remember that all of our small steps can – slowly – change the world. My local 24 supermarkets here in Jerusalem (I live in between 2 of them) have been amused, like Micheal says, bemused, etc, but remember me now as ‘the bag man’ and are seriously thinking about getting their own cloth bags printed up.

    I know that the Anise chain of health food stores in Jeru has done it, and me and many others are working on the other stores and store keepers to change. Always show them your cloth/hemp/string bag and make a virtue of it!

    I saw a shocking video recently about plastic bags being spotted floating in outer space … will look for it and post it up.

  12. Claudia says:

    Funny to hear that you made the same experience.
    This uncomprehending faces of the guys on the cash. Yeah, I know what you are talking about 😉

    Another story I heard from my boyfriend yesterday:

    He went to the super market. An old couple standing in front of him. The old lady told her husband: “Get as much plastic bags as you can carry. They want to change the law and will soon charge money for it!” And so they started to take as much bags as they could.

    I don´t know what they are doing with all this bags, but I am sure, that for the older generation it is even more hard to change the mind and to think ecological.

  13. Michael says:

    “Ani lo zricha sakit!”

    I use this phrase often (in the masculine, of course) and most times get greeted with a bemused “la-mah?” – Why?

    My answer: “yesh kvar maspik sakiot ba’aretz” – There’s enough plastic bags here already.

    Sometimes the shop assistant gets it, other times they just can’t resist…

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