Public Relations Officer
Zminijietna - Voice of the Left
Up to a few days ago, Malta had an ecologically sensible system whereby plastic bottles were banned for soft drinks. Glass bottles had a high return rate, thus showing that the system was legitimate in the eyes of the public.
Yet, the European Union did not allow Malta to retain this system. In the name of free market neo-liberalism, the EU argued that Malta was discriminating against plastic bottles. The result shall be millions of plastic bottles which shall fill Malta's landfills, which are already overburdened with tonnes of waste and which have their limits, especially in small countries like ours. Apart from being a financial burden on the state, this is ultimately harmful to the environment and to people's health.
Isn't it ironic that the same EU which projects itself as the defender of the environment in global fora, has imposed such a harmful and wasteful system on Malta? It's also a case of bad taste that soft-drink producers paraded their investment in plastic bottles as if they are doing Malta a favour!
It does not make much sense to defend the environment yet to promote neo-liberal economic policy at the same time. Commodification and ecology do not mix.
There are those who will argue that if Maltese people have an environmental consciousness, they should deposit used plastic bottles in bring-in sites for recylcling purposes. Such half-hearted apologetic arguments are stuck in a capitalist mindset of endless cheap production, which is ultimately causing much damage to the environment. The recycling of bottles is in itself a polluting productive activity which can be avoided! Besides, most plastic bottles will probably not end up in waste separation facilities and recycling plants, but in landfills.
Others might promote flat-rate taxation on plastic bottles as a form of eco-tax. Yet, what sense would such tax have, if people have no option but to consume such bottles? Environmental responsibility would be dumped on the people, when it is not they who have imposed the plastic-bottle system! Ultimately, it is the working class which will bear the largest burden of such taxation.
Zminijietna - Voice of the Left believes that there is only one honest policy which will save the environment from further damage - the eventual phasing-out of the plastic bottle system referred to above, and the re-introduction of the returnable and reusable bottle system. Otherwise, on this issue, Malta will be moving one step forward and two steps back.
This letter also appeared in an edited version as as 'Bring back glass' in the Sunday Times, 13th January 2008. Link: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20080113/letters/bring-back-glass