Drowning in a sea of plastic

I travelled with my wife, Carol along the south coast of WA, and our souls were lifted up by the views of white pristine sands, vivid blue ocean and even a breaching whale. To be enfolded in nature, to still have places of wilderness is so affirming to me as a child of God.

But as we walked the beach we also saw the plastic: bottles and bits of nylon rope, bags and bottle caps and polystyrene, and small plastic fragments – blue, red, green, white. I could have wept.

I was saddened that we in our humanity could spoil such a beautiful, isolated place. I mourned the fish, sea birds and seals being choked to death by our waste. And I said a silent “sorry” to God that we who are supposed to shine with the image of God could be so thoughtless, uncaring and destructive.

In less than ten minutes we gathered up some armfuls of rubbish and put it in the car boot. It was only a small effort in the face of a vast problem, but we hoped it would make a difference to at least some creatures, somewhere.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Set-up a big box in the church foyer where people can bring their used cans and plastic drink containers. Use the funds from these to raise money for a special project, missional outreach, Good Samaritan Enterprises… whatever.
  • Stop using single use plastic plates, cups, cutlery, plastic straws etc at your church or school. There’ll be a bit more washing-up, but you’ll be helping the planet.
  • Find alternatives to plastic wraps by using things like bee’s wax covers, multi-use silicone sheets, multi-use resealable containers, or wrapping foods in waxed paper (that last one was all the go when I was a kid!).
  • Organise rubbish clean-ups in your area – along kerb sides, railway reserves, parks or local bushlands – wherever rubbish accumulates. Promote it and make it a wider missional action that includes people from outside the church. People will see that the church cares not just for the environment, but for them as well.
  • Invite people to a plastic-free bring and share lunch or picnic. Again, make it a wider community gathering to help promote the Gospel as one that cares for the world.
  • TEAR Australia’s ‘Rubbish Campaign Kit’ is a great resource, available from tearfund.org.au/rubbish/rubbish-campaign-kit or the Social Justice team at the Uniting Church Centre. Email geoffrey.bice@wa.uca.org.au to get a copy.

I know we in Australia are only a part of the global plastics pollution, yet we can still play our part in turning around the rubbishing of our planet. And we as the church can carry hope and be a witness to our own communities that this world and its creatures are truly loved by God.

Plastic is fantastic, but let’s use it wisely and show our love.

Gordon Scantlebury

Top image: A pile of plastic Rev Gordon Scantlebury collected along the beach, on WA’s south coast.

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