Plastic - it’s cheap and durable. No wonder the world loves it.
But perhaps the world should think twice about its fondness for plastic, precisely because it is cheap and durable.
Because it’s cheap, we make it, we use it, we throw it away - most of the time without thinking about it.
Plastic has become a regular feature of our everyday lives. I couldn’t begin to tell you all the different items people come into contact with that use plastic. And even if I listed all the ones I know, you’d be bored before the end of this page. But just to give you some idea, here are some of the items I came in contact with today that use plastic: toothbrush, plastic bags from the butchers, gladwrap to wrap food, plastic containers to put food in, plastic container that pavlova came in, express post bag, bubble wrap, earphones for iPod, iPod, computer, computer mouse, mobile phone, chocolate wrappers, diet coke bottles - I’m bored already. And I’ve barely scratched the surface.
But the many different ways in which plastic is used is not as big a problem as how quickly we dispose of many of those products. If we look at the list above, the plastic bags, the gladwrap, the pavlova container, the express post bag, the chocolate wrappers and the diet coke bottles all have a one-time use. The bubble wrap should be added to that list, but I reuse the bubble wrap that gets delivered to me. The toothbrush and perhaps the iPod earphones have a lifespan of less than a year.
So plastic gets made into many products that we use once (or for a limited time) and then throw out. We use it, we throw it, it disappears.
Well it may disappear from our house and our lives, but it doesn’t disappear from the planet. Remember how I said it was durable. Well that durability may make it a great material to use, but it also means that plastic stays around forever. It may break down into smaller bits, but essentially it doesn’t go away. So the plastic I used and threw away today will still be somewhere in some form in 200 years time. That bears thinking about.
Furthermore, the plastic that is around can do a lot of damage. Much of it ends up in the ocean, where it is often mistaken for food and eaten by fish or birds. The plastic item you use once and then toss could end up in a bird’s stomach.
It’s practically impossible to avoid plastic altogether. It’s found in so many different items. And I for one don’t really want to start brushing my teeth with a wooden toothbrush. Plastic is sometimes good.
But perhaps we should think about the plastic that we do use and throw away. Try to avoid disposable plastic as much as possible. Try to reuse plastic as much as possible. And think about the cost to the environment with every piece of plastic that passes through your hands and gets tossed away.
Christians believe this world is God’s creation. It is also his gift to us. If someone we loved built a house for us, we probably wouldn’t fill that house with a whole lot of rubbish - especially if we knew that rubbish would be around forever. We’d treasure that house because it was built by someone we loved. We’d take care of it and respect their creation. Well we should also respect God’s creation. And part of that respect means thinking about the choices that we make and their impact on the natural world.
Plastic may be a great creation. But it is manmade. And I for one believe that this world is a better creation. Because it is God-made. And doesn’t God’s creation deserve more appreciation and respect than man’s creation does?