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The Anglican Communion’s Environment Network (ACEN) is encouraging Anglicans to reduce their use of plastic in Lent. Organisers hope that those taking part in the “plastic fast” will learn to use less plastic in the longer term in order to protect the earth’s environment. The Environmental Co-ordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Canon Rachel Mash, said that that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. “Plastic is already entering into our drinking water”, she said. “Plastic clogs our rivers, leaches into our soil and is one of the greatest challenges the planet faces.”
ACEN has produced a set of daily challenges linked to weekly themes: plastic bottles and lids, food shopping, bathroom, kitchen, clothing and kids. The challenges began with a commitment to using your own glass or reusable bottle to reduce the estimated one million plastic bottles bought around the world each minute.
They include banning the use of polystyrene in churches, schools and community groups; and sourcing alternative storage facilities, such as lidded containers rather that cling film for food stuffs. There is a creative edge to the challenges too, including a suggestion that parents could bake their own snacks for school lunches rather than purchasing plastic-wrapped products.
“Lent is a time when we prepare our hearts and lives before celebrating the wonder of Easter”, Canon Mash said. “It is a time to break free from bad habits that are hurting God, our neighbour and God’s Creation. On Ash Wednesday when we are signed with the cross, the priest will say: ‘turn away from sin and believe the good news’, This Lent we are challenged to turn from the sin of damaging God’s planet and hurting our neighbours by our over use of single use (throwaway) plastic.”
She said that single-use or disposable plastics – including items such as plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, drinks bottles and most food packaging – are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. “We produce roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable”, she said. “Worldwide only 10 – 13 per cent of plastic items are recycled.
“The nature of petroleum based disposable plastic makes it difficult to recycle and they have to add new virgin materials and chemicals to it to do so. Additionally there are a limited number of items that recycled plastic can be used.
“Petroleum based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean. Although plastic will not biodegrade – decompose into natural substance like soil – it will degrade – break down – into tiny particles after many years.
“In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals – additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic – which make their way into our food and water supply. These toxic chemicals are now being found in our bloodstream.”
The Moderator and Primate of the united Church of South India, Bishop Thomas K Oomen, has endorsed the plastic fast; and in a message to his Church he has called on Christians to make 10 “Green Confessions” during Lent.
“These ‘Green Confessions’ are not only to be prayed, but also to be practised”, the Moderator said. “If we live a life committed to avoiding all kinds of disposable plastics, the manufacturers would be forced to avoid all disposable plastics, and thus we would be contributing towards a lesser carbon footprint.
“If lent is a time we think upon how to foster life, rather than destroying life, it is our spiritual commitment to avoid plastics since it ‘kills’ life. As I hope that this year’s lent would be a meaningful time to reflect, repent, reorient and rededicate our lives to accomplish God’s will, I ardently pray that God would enable all of us to continue our life in an eco-spiritual pilgrimage fighting against all causes of ecological catastrophes, particularly the disposable plastic catastrophe.”