It is small change, not that many of us carry small change these days. Sixty cents or so a time will buy you a plastic carrier bag. That’s in the unlikely (likely?) event you are not returning with the one you bought on your previous supermarket shopping spree.
The latest green propaganda tells us these bags live forever, and indeed they have earned the nickname of our national flower – after the way they litter the roadside.
Plastic is more abundant in the ocean than fish; it turns up in tiny particles in drinking water. It pollutes.
So few greenies can complain about the levy on these bags – which is rising to 12c a bag from next month – until they read the shocking news in Business Day that only half of this levy for recycling was used for, well, recycling.
About R1.8bn has been collected in the last 14 years. Only R919.6m went towards recycling.
The balance? Apparently the funds raised were not ring-fenced, and the Treeasury says the rest of the cash went into the National Revenue Fund and was allocated to government departments.
So government, in its finite wisdom, has taken half of a green levy, and pocketed it. Not stolen, but re-directed.
This would be disturbing enough were it not for another R2bn collection for recycling – this time for tyres. A set-up called REDISA was placed in liquidation last year after dirty dealings, with allegations that those running the scheme had done more than their fair share of recycling….into their own pockets.
At the heart of these two recycling schemes is an issue of trust.
Few of us begrudge a request for a few cents if it is to make the planet greener and less polluted. But there is reason to question the sleight of hand of Treasury officials who have diverted the green cash into other un-green areas.
It may be legal. But it is dishonest, and goes against the initial suggestion that the plastic bag recycling levy cash would be used for a specific purpose. Recycling plastic bags.
The issue of the tyres, of course, is even worse, with a suspicion that some of the money collected was stolen.
All this raises a serious question about another green tax, set to be introduced from next year – the Carbon Tax.
It is suggested the proceeds from this will be used to support pollution controls, energy efficiency, cleaner and greener factories, mills and power stations (although Eskom will get a better deal than the rest). Polluters will pay the Carbon Tax, but at the same time there will be incentives to pollute less, to curb your carbon footprint.
However, do we trust the Treasury and other government departments to use the Carbon Tax money for green purposes, after they have acted so shamefully in failing to spend all the recycling cash in a green way?
You might. Certainly not me.