The solution is to banish plastics from our lives

Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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Secret stockpile
I was dismayed to discover that REDcycle’s plastic recycling program is defunct (“Secret stockpile as plastic bag recycling collapses”, The Age, 9/11). Shockingly, despite our best intentions, only 16 per cent of all plastics and 4 per cent of soft plastics are recycled in Australia. Further, unlike glass and aluminium that can be endlessly recycled, most plastic is only ever “downcycled” to a less durable form, shedding microplastics with each iteration.

Derived from fossil fuels, we know plastics are an environmental disaster. There is an important lesson in REDcycle’s unfortunate reality – the only way to solve the plastic problem is to eliminate it from our lives.
Amy Hiller, Kew

Hold manufacturers responsible
Plastic manufacturers have an ethical obligation to ensure the products they produce can ultimately be disposed of without further polluting the environment or going to landfill. The focus appears to be at the wrong end of the supply chain.

As with car manufacturers changing to electric charged vehicles, it may be time to call plastic manufacturers to account. For starters, the major supermarket chains can make a real difference by refusing to accept goods wrapped in soft plastics or supplying bags at the fruit and vegetable stalls or tills.
Charlotte Chidell, Eltham North

Ban the bags
American TV shows often show shoppers carrying paper bags full of groceries, but unfortunately Australians seem to have a love affair with the plastic bag that refuses to die.

Not only are stockpiles of plastic bags a fire risk, the bags are manufactured using petrol chemicals, which add to our CO2 emissions. In addition, discarded plastic bags break down into microplastics that are eaten by fish and birds. The case for banning plastic bags altogether is overwhelming.
Graeme Lechte, Brunswick West

An opportunity for innovation
I’m sure I’m not the only person bitterly disappointed to read of the collapse of REDcycle. Plastic pollution, like carbon pollution, is a planetary problem, affecting our global environment and habitat in so many ways. Australia should be stepping up. We are a clever country. We should be responding to the emergency of chronic pollution by more energetically funding research and development into new plastic-free products and innovative recycling techniques. Even more importantly, we should not be continuing to allow companies to get away with freely using plastic packaging without consequence.
Josephine Ben-Tovim, Carlton

Subsidise recycled goods
Governments can do more to support the plastic recycling industry. One personal example: our garden furniture is made from recycled plastic. It is functional and attractive but it was very expensive. Most people will not/cannot buy recycled goods that are more costly. It is National Recycling Week. A grand election promise for all parties would be to propose strong, practical, economic support for plastic recycling industries.
Carmel McNaught, Balwyn North

Find alternatives to plastic
We have become a throwaway, single-use society. I recall as a child in the ’60s taking our own pots to collect Chinese takeaway. I am not suggesting a return to this, but surely there is an alternative to plastic containers, even if it means a slight surcharge, such as how some containers are now made from compostable plant material.
Vicki Jordan, Lower Plenty

Charge the true cost of disposable packaging
When I was a child everything was packaged in paper, glass and metal cans and lids. Recycling was easy if required at all. If industry says it is too hard to bring back environmentally friendly packaging, then simply place a levy on products calculated on how excessive and damaging the packaging is to the planet.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove

THE FORUM

Who does Guy agree with?
Matthew Guy says he thinks “a lot of Victorians” agreed with the Liberal Party’s advertisement that called Daniel Andrews a “prick” (“Guy defends ad directed at COVID rules”, 9/11). Does he mean those who marched with a beating drum and mounted noose through Melbourne’s streets? Is he trying to appeal to a minority who believed their rights to “freedom” trumped the community’s need for safety during the worst of the pandemic?

The correlation between COVID-19 laissez-faire policy and death/illness rates in other countries was clear. The strict measures in Victoria (and NSW) were in part to protect our hospitals, which continued to deal with many other illnesses besides COVID-19. That is one of the reasons why the overwhelming majority of Victorians complied, despite the hardship. Another was that they didn’t want to become ill.

No one was forced to get the jab; no one is forced now. But those who didn’t get the jab have surely been overrepresented in the COVID-19 figures recording hospitalisations and deaths. Freedom, indeed.
Fiona Colin, Malvern East

Lapses of judgment
Shaun Carney laments the use of “recycled” leaders like Matthew Guy (“Time running out for recycled Guy”, 9/11). It’s not the recycling that’s the problem. It’s past bad decisions, including lapses of judgment by Guy while he was planning minister. In 2011, the Ventnor rezoning; in 2012, Fishermen’s Bend; in 2012, the Green Wedges debacle; in 2013, a proposed unlimited skyscraper in Collins Street. Most people only remember the 2017 lobster dinner.
Jan Marshall, Brighton

What do they stand for?
Reflecting while reading Carney’s article, I ask myself what does the Liberal Party stand for, and would I vote for them: are they pro-climate, pro-public housing, pro-multicultural integration, pro-education for all, want better health outcomes? Tell us how a Liberal/conservative government is better for all Victorians.
Mark Fewster, Ascot Vale

Knowns and unknowns
The choice on election day is more of the same or change? Voters already know the character of the current government, from the premier down. The unknown is the character of the leader of the opposition and the party he leads.
Michael Gamble, Belmont

Vote buying
What is it about apprentices and tradies in general that they get preferred treatment? Labor’s latest spend is to make car registration free for apprentices. What about all the other young workers who need to drive to work – nurses, aged care workers, lowly paid service industry workers in restaurants? Where do you stop?

Another brain fade from Daniel Andrews who seems to think that buying votes is going to get him across the line. Integrity, honesty and fairness are the qualities I liked when he first became premier, but he seems to have joined the slippery slope of vote buying.
Alan Inchley, Frankston

Too many potholes
Infrastructure spending? Really? Almost everywhere you go in Victoria, there are potholes.
Here, there and everywhere, you are ambushed with a shuddering, wheelrim-jarring and
buckling, almighty crunch.

And that’s just how it is under the Andrews-led Labor government. Ambulance response times, power prices, SES resources, hospital waiting lists, COVID-19 quarantine and tracing policies, massive cost over-runs and state government debt … the list of potholes goes on.
Howard Hutchins, Chirnside Park

Unfair to judge IBAC draft
The Age scored no points in its litigation against the publication of draft decisions made by IBAC (“‘No public imperative’ to release draft IBAC report”, 9/11). We have heard a lot about transparency in relation to corruption investigations. But the transparency concerns how much information is for public consumption in the hearing stage.

The draft decision is made after public hearings have ended. It is not about evidence but about the interpretation of that evidence. All parties need to discuss the detail of the findings. The commission’s draft decision may change as part of that process. It would be unfair for a person to be initially found to have been corrupt based on the draft which was made public only to be found otherwise in the final decision. To argue otherwise only invites unfair practices.
John Rome, Mt Lawley, WA

Debate sorely needed
In the run-up to the Victorian election, why are no debates being held? In the wake of lockdowns, energy wars and spiralling state debt, surely this is the most important election for many years. Let Andrews and Guy state their cases directly to the people. We need to hear from them.
Wayne Alexander, Eltham

A deeper problem
The teacher quoted in your report is correct, there is a cultural problem at St Kevin’s – it’s a Catholic school only for boys (“Dozens of harassment complaints at St Kevin’s”, 9/11). No other religions permitted and definitely no girls allowed. There’s your problem. Weirdly, some people pay for that – while the rest of us not only subsidise it but deal with the problems.

These schools need to be truly independent and stand on their own without support from taxes. Simon Clegg, Donvale

Some distance to go
A statement from St Kevin’s then principal in 2019, after the infamous train chant incident: “We have programs specifically designed to teach and shape our boys’ behaviour and attitudes about respectful relationships. The college and families need to continue to work together to expand on and improve our work in this area.”

Clearly, as an educational institution, the college has a way to go in changing the attitudes of “the boys”, whether they’re teachers or students.
Matt Dunn, Leongatha

Collared dogs
Adam Graycar asks whether anti-corruption agencies should be watchdogs or attack dogs (Comment, 9/11). But many dog owners, and governments, prefer small, cute lap dogs that spend their days snoozing on the couch. They are far easier to manage than the larger, noisy dogs that demand attention and can cause problems in the local parks.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

Loose cannons
Why would anybody think that voting for an independent candidate is voting for integrity, or that an independent is not as self-serving as any other candidate?

What you will get, though, is a loose cannon, one who can put a spanner in the works of the elected government, a government who at last has a chance to do something for the workers of the country.
One has only to look at who is holding up the workplace legislation, to see who the new model is working for, who the independent candidates truly are.
Jan Hasnie, Doncaster

Not left too late
George Megalogenis’ claim that my government’s carbon price stalled because we left it too late in my first time is completely ahistorical (Comment, 5/11).

We took office in December 2007, launched formal consultations in March 2008, published a green paper in July 2008, followed by a white paper in December 2008, exposure draft legislation in February 2009 and introduced a bill into parliament in May 2009. This was all within 18 months of my swearing-in. At the same time, we legislated a 20 per cent mandatory renewable energy target by 2020, kickstarting the transition and laying the groundwork for today’s 33 per cent share for renewables – up from 4per cent after 12 years of climate inertia under John Howard. We did this at the height of the GFC!

By December 2009, we had legislation backed by the Business Council of Australia, World Wildlife Fund, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Industry Group, Australian Council of Social Service, the Aluminium Council and a 49.4 per cent minority of Liberal MPs. If the Greens had put the climate first – rather than wedging Labor for pure political advantage – the carbon price would have passed with an unassailable coalition of Labor, Green and Liberal votes.

It’s encouraging that Adam Bandt seems to have learned from Bob Brown’s mistake.
Kevin Rudd, New York

More gas no solution
Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher blames a decade of climate wars in part for a lack of affordable and reliable energy in Australia. His solution, all too predictably, is to develop more gas supplies (“Santos boss blames global policies for energy crisis”, 11/9). He is alarmed that producers in the West have slowed or stopped investing in new oil and gas.

Instead of getting the message, Santos is “chasing a vision of decarbonisation that allows continued heavy production of hydrocarbons”. How this will result in affordable energy is unclear.

Slamming renewable hydrogen for costing “up to 10 times the cost of gas”, they will focus by the 2030s on making “renewable methane” by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide captured from the air. Come again Santos?
John Gare, Kew East

Full transparency
Jessica Irvine argues for full pay transparency, even to the extent of online public disclosure (Comment, 8/11) but it is noteworthy that nowhere in her article does she disclose her own salary. Strange about that.
Garry Meller, Bentleigh

Blinkered drivers
The problem is not that cyclists cannot be seen (Letters, 9/11) but that drivers aren’t looking. In spite of wearing a high-vis jacket and having bright front and rear lights, I have had many near misses with car drivers, whose reaction is “sorry, I didn’t see you”. No amount of high-vis will save you from drivers not looking.
James Proctor, Maiden Gully

And another thing

US midterms
With the Republican Party running election deniers in so many of the crucial secretary of state races (The Age, 9/11), we need to steel ourselves – we’re about to witness just how fragile democracy is.
Matthew Hamilton, Kew

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Donald Trump has indicated he will “very, very, very, probably” run again for president in 2024. Why would he compete in a system that he claims was so full of fraud, it robbed him last time?
Gerry Lonergan, Reservoir

Donald Trump wants to “take our country back” but exactly how far?
Richard Opat, Elsternwick

The scariest thing about these US midterm elections is that this fractured, once global behemoth is all that stands between the world as we know it and the likes of Putin and Xi.
Gary Sayer, Warrnambool

State politics
Regarding Matthew Guy’s election advertisement that asks, “Remember when we hit the streets to protest against Daniel Andrews’ record lockdowns” (The Age, 9/11): was he the bloke standing next to those neo-Nazi flag-bearers?
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East

Mr Guy, the only thing your attack on Daniel Andrews over Victoria’s COVID response has achieved is to show just how desperate you are.
Tim Durbridge, Brunswick

We shouldn’t be too concerned about the cost of lavish election promises. They won’t be kept anyway.
David Johnston, Healesville

Like the soft plastic bags that are collected then stored and ignored, recycled Matthew Guy is just taking up space in the Liberal Party until a real leader emerges.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South

Furthermore
As Sanmati Verma (Comment, 9/11) details, the Australian government has become a predatory exploiter and torturer of prospective citizens (i.e visa applicants), just as it exploited and tortured pensioners through the robo-debt scheme.
Kishor Dabke, Mount Waverley

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