We have been going the wrong way with plastics for the last 30 or more years (“Waste no more? Plan to turn plastic into fuel for homes”, News). The effort of collecting, transporting and cleaning them for possible recycling has largely failed, created much more pollution and contributed massively to climate change. The idea of burning plastics and using the energy to heat our homes was proposed by the plastics company Dow more than 30 years ago: it suggested treating all plastics as “borrowed oil”. At that time, ordinary domestic waste had a calorific value of low-grade coal, so the suggestion was that this waste should be burned in efficient plants with heat recovery and treatment of the gases produced, perhaps even trapping the carbon dioxide produced, rather than trying to recycle the complex (and dirty) mix of plastics.
Today, with higher use of more complex plastics, this makes even more sense. Mixed plastics cannot really be recycled: they are long-chain molecules, like spaghetti, so if you reheat and reprocess them, you inevitably end up with something of lower performance; it’s called down-cycling. Newsprint is what happens when you recycle paper: low strength is inevitable. Of course, this idea doesn’t deal with all the plastic already in our environment, even in our purified drinking water. Quite simply, this cannot be removed and, apart from some distressing images of trapped animals, seems to be causing little impact on human or animal life.
It is time we adopted a more scientific approach.
Why should I pay to park?
In response to Anna Tims’s article on parking fines for NHS nurses (“Charged for caring: nurses at work given parking fines”, Cash), I worked for Cumbria Partnerships NHS trust until 2018. During this time, it privatised a hospital car park. We were charged increasing amounts for a permit, which did not guarantee a parking space. I was frequently ticketed for parking in the wrong tier (the only available space). The cost was approximately half my daily wage.
I now work for South West Yorkshire NHS trust. There are two parking spaces allocated for a team of 12. We have to pay for on-street parking and are constantly running backwards and forwards to avoid tickets. Following community visits, it can take half an hour to find a space or to walk back to the office from a distance. This disrupts patient care and can take up valuable lunch breaks. There is no option of claiming any money back.
I despair that I’m even writing this letter. In a job where you deal with serious mental illness on a daily basis, surely parking should not even be an issue?
Name and address withheld
Bias against black children
In response to Charles Tyrie’s letter (“The value of early education”), as a former university governor who is black, I am less intrigued by Kenan Malik’s article (“Working-class versus minorities? That’s looking at it the wrong way”, Comment, 14 July) and what it said about the ethnic pay gap and ethnic attainment.
Most parents want the best for their children. In the 1970s, when black children were regularly written off as educationally subnormal, studies revealed that these children entered primary school with more advanced reading and linguistic skills (taught by their families) than their white counterparts, yet left with lower attainment. Many black parents have a sense that the labelling has returned.
Perhaps the area of further research should be the link between different expectations from their teachers (something I have experienced educating my child in both state and private schools), the lack of a culturally aware curriculum and bias, unconscious or otherwise, and the disproportionate outcome between ethnic groups. This link continues through secondary and tertiary education, resulting in an attainment gap. The same study could also look into the biases that make it more difficult for some ethnic groups to enter particular jobs and professions, such as the law, fast-track civil service, medicine, accountancy and journalism.
These links are well known and, while ever more research is carried out to tell us what we already know, the life chances of our children are stunted. It is time for structural changes within schools and other educational establishments to narrow and close these gaps. Our children can’t afford more time wasted on research.
Cordella Bart-Stewart, director, Black Solicitors Network and editor BAME Education and Careers Guide
Green fingers then and now
Regarding your article on schools teaching pupils gardening skills (“Weeding, writing and arithmetic… why green fingers are good for our children”, News), I was appointed head gardener at a local authority-run education garden in 1985. My main audience was children between five and 16. I had clear guidelines set out in the curriculum for teaching rural studies; I would enthuse and encourage them to understand where their food was grown and how nature would support them in life.
Imagine my horror when the government deemed rural studies to be irrelevant to modern life. Move forward some 30 years and we are being enjoined by those who want to influence our youngsters that they should know all about “gardening”. Perhaps we would not need to reinvent the teaching on many subjects if they had been left in the handbook of subjects previously taught.
St Austell, Cornwall
Article ticked me off
Lyme disease is certainly increasing, but the numbers are quite small (“Lyme disease: is a solution on the way?”, New Review). The disease in the UK is spread by the sheep tick and the reason its numbers are increasing is probably related to the expanding deer population. It is a small minority of tick bites that lead to Lyme disease and the tick probably needs to be attached for six or more hours. It is easily managed in the initial circumstances by a course of doxycycline. A very small number of untreated cases go on to develop the chronic condition, though lots of people worry about it, helped by articles such as yours.
Dr Paul Godwin
Don’t judge me on my accent
It is a pity that Nick Cohen did not see fit to contact me before committing finger to word-processor in his denigration of both me and Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn (“Why are some on left and right still seduced by the ‘noble savage’ myth?”, Comment). Had he done so, he would have discovered that I am a British citizen, run a successful construction business based in north London and am an active member of the Hackney North Constituency Labour, in which I hold office as constituency Labour party representative and as a BAME delegate. Perhaps I do have a Yiddish accent. But so did Nobel prizewinner IS Singer!
He would also have discovered that far from favouring “no sex education” for my children, I was in fact an outspoken proponent of such education, provided it is given by parents and in the home. And I would have reminded him that the right of parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious beliefs is enshrined in the European convention on human rights, to which the UK is a signatory.
The kindness of strangers
Thank you to Sarah Helm for her report on the impending eviction of 75-year-old hotelier Walid Dajani from the Imperial hotel in Jerusalem’s Old City (“By the Jaffa Gate, final showdown looms in battle over historic hotel”, World). While Mr Dajani, with human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, will contest the supreme court judgment in favour of the Jewish settler organisation Ateret Cohanim, the situation is grim.
We want to add a personal note regarding an act of great kindness from Mr Dajani. We were due to meet our daughter in Jerusalem in 2000. She arrived before us and was staying at the Imperial when she fell ill. Concerned for her, Mr Dajani called in his doctor, who gave her a prescription. Finding bank machines closed (Sabbath), she returned without her medicine. Mr Dajani immediately drew money from his till, insisting she shouldn’t wait to start treatment. Nor would he let us reimburse him on our arrival, saying it had simply been his duty of care for a young person. We have never forgotten his generous humanity. The planned eviction reflects the opposite.
Beverley and Nandha Naidoo