Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Letters to the editor: April 26 to May 2

Pay deposits for plastic

Some years ago we were told that the introduction of thicker plastic bags would help to solve the problem of plastic waste. Most people realised at the time that this would not work, and the plan has failed more dismally than even the most pessimistic of us predicted. Only the manufacturers of the thicker plastic bags and the shop owners, who overcharge for them, have benefited.

Yet one solution to the problem plastic poses to the environment can also play a role in redistributing income. Every single disposable plastic item should incur a deposit. This would require only a minor adjustment by manufacturers. Depots can be set up at shopping centres to receive returned items in exchange for shopping vouchers.

The deposits received by shop owners can be collected by the municipal council in much the same way as value-added tax is collected by the revenue service, and claimed back by submitting the used shopping vouchers.

At the depots, specially trained people can immediately separate out the items according to kind, as required by recycling firms. People who at present move around suburbs sorting through litter bins could perhaps be the first ones eligible for such employment — they already have the requisite knowledge of what plastic items can be collected together.

Money paid by the recycling companies for sorted refuse would contribute to the salaries and other costs associated with maintaining the depots. It would cost local councils much less to subsidise this system than it does for them to dispose of plastic litter as they do at present.

Another role councils could play would be to transport collected items from these depots to recycling firms, although most such firms would probably be willing to collect the waste themselves. The council would then also receive payments from recycling firms, and use them to pay salaries and other costs.

In the complex where I live, the body corporate has bought expensive separate containers from a recycling company. The scheme does not work, because the company concerned expects us to know how to distinguish between the different kinds of plastics, not all of which are conveniently labelled. The same applies to glass and paper. Workers at the depots could quickly be trained to make those distinctions.

With very few of us currently sorting our garbage, it’s obvious that attempting to educate the public will be a waste of resources. It makes more sense to turn the problem into an opportunity that will help alleviate poverty, clean our environment and save the energy and resources that recycling enables.

Such deposits would immediately increase the price of goods in our shops, but citizens could get the extra money back by simply returning the plastic items to their nearest depots.

If any are too rich or lazy to do so, someone else will do it for them, and benefit financially from doing so.

It would be simpler, of course, for our supermarkets to set up their own internal collection depots.

It may look like a very complicated system, but with the requisite computer programming, it could be administered quite simply. — John Brodrick, Bedfordview

Anti-Bolsonaro article has errors

Regrettably, I have to point out that Benjamin Fogel’s article Bolsonaro’s three-month rule a disaster contains incorrect facts. Fogel’s views reflect the Brazilian opposition’s narrative, which the author openly supports.

First, it is false to say that Brazil has never come to terms with its military government. Not only did the country adopt an amnesty law that created conditions to bring together different political groups and actors in the elaboration of a democratic Constitution in 1988, but a national truth commission was also established in 2011, which was tasked to investigate what happened in the country in the period.

Contrary to what Fogel suggests, President Jair Bolsonaro is not personally involved in any corruption scandals. There’s no accusation of any illegal activity and he has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, Fogel’s reports of accusations against Bolsonaro’s son are hasty, because such claims have not been proven or judged by a court.

Another mistaken view put forward by Fogel is his accusation that the anti-crime Bill legalises police murder and that it is being put together by Minister of Justice Sérgio Moro without consultation. Actually, the proposal has been submitted to Congress for consideration, following the regular, democratic law-making process. It does not legalise any crime by any actors either, but rather provides for more effective means to prevent and combat murders in light of Brazil’s crime rate.

The Brazilian government, like any democracy, is under public scrutiny after its first 100 days in office. The government has fulfilled all 35 goals it set for its first trimester, thereby expressing Bolsonaro’s commitment to the proposals presented to the Brazilian people during the campaign, and as a result of which he was democratically elected. — Nedilson Jorge, ambassador of Brazil in South Africa

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

R350 relief grant will be paid into bank accounts or...

There are concerns that post office branch closures will make it difficult for beneficiaries to access the grant

South Africa at risk of spillover from international inflation, economists...

Higher international oil prices, for example, could affect local transport costs through second-round effects

More top stories

Companies affected by unrest can apply for support as soon...

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi urges employers to be honest when applying for help

Mboweni extends R38bn to cope with double calamity of Covid-19...

The finance minister extended the Ters relief and the social distress relief grant, and also ensured businesses hit by looting can access insurance

South Africa appalled that Israel given AU observer status

The international relations department has released a statement condemning the decision

Coal on a drive to delay its demise

The just transition that is currently being executed is a balance between energy security and climate change, according to one analyst

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…