I have just counted the number of plastic bottles in my home – water bottles, cleaning products, soft drinks, household commodities. There is a staggering 106! This illustrates the neglect for the environment our society has shown towards responsible plastic management. Some 10 years ago we were all encouraged to recycle our used plastic but although we have made some progress we have got stuck, and even now the figure for recycling bottles is just under 50% and may be only 10% for plastic in general! The rest ends up in the landfill or elsewhere and simply lurks for future generations. Scientists have established that plastic lasts 200-400 years!
The fate of plastic
What happens to non-recycled plastic? You only have to walk along the river after a bank holiday or even just a sunny day and you can see how much plastic gets trashed, despoiling our beautiful countryside. For example, British people use 7.7bn single-use plastic water bottles a year, meaning that 16 million bottles are binned every day in Britain apart from all the other bottles, bags and containers we use. Plastics cannot be broken down in the natural environment.
How does plastic affect the environment? Did you ever stop to think that every single piece of plastic ever created still exists in some form or other? It is virtually indestructible.
Once there it leaches chemicals which are seriously toxic to humans and wildlife, when it is consumed the chemicals are concentrated up the food chain and it contaminates every part of the environment inhabited by man, and that includes the vast ocean spaces. It clogs up digestive systems and kills animals, whales as well as microscopic animals. Intact plastic cartons and larger pieces float on the surface and are very rapidly distributed because they are so light. Caused by sunlight which makes it brittle and the physical buffeting of the waves, most pieces eventually break into smaller and smaller particles, and then and collect in the first ten metres below the surface. Where this material has been studied in the gyres of currents caused by weather patterns in the greater oceans, it was found that there were six times as many particles of plastic than plankton. Plastic heavy waste (Old ropes, etc) sinks to the ocean depths and settles on the sea-bed contaminating the life on the floor of the ocean.
In 1950, an estimated 1.5 million tons of plastic waste was believed to have been dumped into the oceans but today, the figure exceeds 300 million tons ending in the oceans. The problem is now so big and widespread it cannot be solved by collecting up the plastic waste. Instead, only as the world changes its plastic lifestyle will any impact be made and then only over a very long period. At present the problem is getting rapidly out of hand.
What should we do? What can we do? We need to try to encourage one another to be more responsible, and join with other organisations who are working to help people understand the problem and commit to a lifestyle change. As a church, we can encourage our community to act on the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As individuals we can each make a small step towards a sustainable future, in step with Greenpeace, The United Nations, Our UK Science for the Environment Policy, and many other charities committed to reducing plastic waste. With the ever increasing price of oil (from which your plastic goods are made) this all makes sense both for your pocket and for the environment.
REDUCE plastic use = commit to reduce our purchase and consumption
REUSE plastics = refill plastic bottles and containers by buying refill packs where they exist, and fill up your water… in plastic bottles.
RECYCLE remaining plastics = ensure any plastic disposal is in recycling.
Without recycling, this “wasted” plastic cannot be reworked and reused. So, recycled plastic decreases new plastic production which requires additional natural resources. You can help to save the environment by keeping wasted plastics out of the landfills, and seas, thus cut down on natural resource use to make new plastics. Campaign to ensure that manufacturers and supermarkets only sell recyclable plastics when they must.
As an Eco Church, Christ Church this year is going to commit during our Harvest season to reduce plastic use per household by 20% in October. To do this precisely, we shall encourage us all to measure present use in late September for a week, then reduce and measure again four weeks later. Vow to maintain your new target.
You may like to start by counting the number of plastic bottles you currently take to landfill. Then, without increasing your purchase significantly, perhaps you could increase the number of plastic articles you send to recycling and reduce that which goes to landfill. Or you could count the number of bottles you buy at the supermarket/cornershop/café and choose to see how many less you can survive on in the week! You could fill up a bottle repeatedly with tap water instead of buying single use water bottles. Or a combination of all these!
We hope to suggest games and fun activities to promote this activity. We shall try to record the total reduction we can achieve and it will count towards our demonstrating we are an Eco Church, it will be a topic for conversation! If we feel it’s too much like hard work, remember that our faith calls us to act responsibly towards the creation and to work with God to restore our world while there is still time.
PaulTags: Environment, Magazine, Watson