Columns 9.1.2017 08:15 am

America, land of the wasteful

AFP/File / Sebastien Bozon<br />Shoddy waste management and littering across the globe likely added eight million metric tons of plastic to the ocean in 2010, scientists said

AFP/File / Sebastien Bozon
Shoddy waste management and littering across the globe likely added eight million metric tons of plastic to the ocean in 2010, scientists said

There are recycling bins, yes, some are trying, and yet still everything is so plastic.

I’m home now, back from my holiday. That was it then, my swansong, my last visit before … well, my last in a while anyway. And you did not disappoint, America.

You were still as big and brash, as thoughtless and guileless as ever you were, getting by on a smile, on a breezy “have a great day, folks”, baffled when people don’t like you.

I was in a restaurant with a friend, eating pizza, drinking margaritas. The food came in cardboard baskets, the knives and forks were wooden. All of it went in the trash at the end.

I was at a permanent market, with lavish food choices everywhere. Finally we settled on chowder which was then ladled into polystyrene bowls, with plastic lids, plastic spoons, plastic-wrapped crackers and, just to finish it off, a big polystyrene tray.

“Not the tray,” I squealed, but the man ignored me. “You all have a great day!” he said, handing over this environmental time bomb.

Somewhere a dolphin screamed.

Yes, there are recycling bins, yes, some are trying, and yet still everything is so plastic.

Excuse my indelicacy, but even the tampons come with hard plastic applicators.

I know one woman who thinks climate change is a liberal plot, so she makes it her business to throw away as much stuff as possible because her husband recycles and she’s trying to mitigate his efforts. It’s a world view that’s jaw-dropping, but at least it’s a view.

Some lack even that. In one upmarket restaurant – it had actual china – the waitress, on hearing we were South African, asked if we spoke French. I explained that my homeland has several official languages, none of them French.

“I went to Haiti once,” she said, beaming. I waited, baffled as to the connection.

“They speak Creole,” she finished, delighted with herself. They? Was the connection she’d made black people? And Creole? The diasporic language created by slaves captured like animals and dragged from the vast reaches of Africa?

“Right,” I said.

Oh America, I love you, but sometimes a smile isn’t enough.

Sometimes there has to be substance too. When I left, I closed the door – for now, at least – but I didn’t switch off the lights.

There really seemed no need.

Jennie Ridyard

Jennie Ridyard

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