/ 3 May 2019

Letters to the editor: May 3 to 9

Big problem: Recycling efforts are not clearing up waste plastic. We must stop using it
Big problem: Recycling efforts are not clearing up waste plastic. We must stop using it, says the author of the letter below. (Paul Botes/ M&G)

Don’t recycle plastic, ban it altogether

I refer to the article Death or taxes for polluting plastic and the letter Revolutionise recycling in your April 18 edition.

The plastics industry has had zero new responses in 25 years to the global rebellion against the impact of their mostly toxic products on people and the planet. Even the newer attempt to blame treasury for “not ring-fencing the plastic bag tax” is laughable, because the quasi-nongovernmental organisation Buyisa-e-bag was hijacked by the industry to promote plastics!

READ MORE: China plastic waste ban throws global recycling into chaos

Remember the Fantastic Plastic campaign in schools? Not a single piece of plastic was recycled through this multimillion-rand mechanism, as confirmed to the portfolio committee in Parliament.

Extended producer responsibility legislation has been in place since the mid-1990s, for which we fought really hard, but has been completely ignored to date. Similarly, a deposit system on all products and packaging has not even peeped over the parapet since, and will not work for most discarded packaging.

What will the deposit be on a bag of sweets that costs R2? Only meaningful and substantial deposits work. The graphs in the article show post-consumer materials, yet the majority of waste is generated long before it hits the shelves. The silence on pre-consumer waste is deafening.

A recent study confirms the negative impact of plastics on the global ocean economy alone is between $500-billion and $2 500-billion annually, compared to the worth of the global plastics industry, which was $522.66-billion in 2017. Imagine the losses to the system including extraction, processing, air and land-based pollution, and the longevity of the material? It is time to halt hidden and externalised subsidies to a highly problematic material.

It’s too late for stop-gap measures. Plastics are fossil fuels-based, contain harmful chemicals, and can only be “downcycled”. Aiming for “better than the European Union” recycling rates is laughable given the history; the EU is banning plastics, confirming the failure of recycling yet again.

It is time to turn off the tap; mopping up is not working. — Muna Lakhani, national co-ordinator for the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa, Cape Town

SMEs need to stand together

Social media is a paradox: contrary to what its name denotes, it feeds self-absorbed isolation. For this reason, it seems, people have reverted to the tribal mind-set, with groups emerging to meet in person or online at scheduled times, just to connect. Social media’s initial message is lost in the selfies and shamelessly disingenuous boasting permeating it.

Entrepreneurs are no different. Business’s pace is now dizzying. The fourth industrial revolution has increased the appetite to compete and the pressure to flaunt “success”.

Though success is relative, entrepreneurs feel pressure to present a façade of having “arrived” when in fact they’re struggling.

Having trod the often lonely road of entrepreneurship, I’ve come to realise the immense value of camaraderie and its relevance to entrepreneurial success and longevity. The camaraderie that comes from networking with others — with varying levels of economic standing and expertise — reminds me of the capacity in our own stable: small businesses account for more than 90% of South Africa’s economy and contribute nearly 35% to its gross domestic product.

These numbers are serious. They won’t remain if we don’t band together. It’s our responsibility as entrepreneurs to check in on one another, impart knowledge, admit to our failures and share lessons learnt. — Gwen Serrotti, chief executive and founder, Xtraordinary Women

Humanism is best belief

I refer to the article by Carlos Amato Let the small gods live on in cowpats, Santa and song.

The term “atheist” only describes what you are not, not what you are or might be. Humanism is a positive way of nurturing your beliefs. I write because I am amazed that Amato sounds as if he has not heard of, and makes no reference to, humanism.

Your readers, who may be dealing with their weakening religious beliefs, should refer to the website humanism.org.uk

This thoughtful and friendly community makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings, not on dogma. — Ronald Ingle, Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal

Mainstream SA churches must focus on restitution

I was pleased to read NG Kerk is repenting for apartheid

Not only the NG Kerk needs to repent. Apartheid was just Afrikaner phase two colonialism. The other mainstream churches played much the same role during Dutch and English phase one colonialism.

Many South African churches still support colonialism phase three under a rainbow elite and, although poor people have theoretical democracy, they don’t have justice or equal opportunity as rich people do.

Many churches continue with the institutional structure which prejudices less fortunate people and gives out charity in a top-down, better knowing, pale Eurocentric way.

Repentance is the first step, but restitution is a vital part of paying back the advantage we English and Afrikaans first-language speakers enjoyed over the past 350 years.

Until the beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid calculate and pay restitution we will never enjoy true peace or nationhood in South Africa. — Michael Pickstone-Taylor, Cape Town