17 January 2019, The Tablet

Maxed out with plastic: it is not too late to change our throwaway culture

by Angela Ashwin

 

For patients in need of blood transfusions or suffering from burns, it can be life-saving. More often these days it is seen to be death-dealing as discarded plastic chokes the life out of God’s Creation. But as a popular spiritual writer explains, it is not too late to change our throwaway culture

I don’t want to demonise plastic. Initially, it was the result of our God-given, scientific ingenuity working with natural and organic materials such as crude oil. The serious problems concerning plastic that now confront us have not arisen because plastic is bad in itself, but because of the ways in which we have come to manufacture, use and discard it, with careless disregard for the impact of our behaviour on the Earth and its creatures.
Our use and misuse of plastic is not just an ecological issue, it is a moral and spiritual issue. It is right to be thankful for plastic’s potential for good when we use it appropriately and dispose of it responsibly. I still have vivid memories of our three-month-old son, desperately ill in hospital, connected to numerous plastic tubes, some of which were attached to thick polythene bags containing blood, saline fluid and medication: lots of plastic, all playing a vital role in his recovery.

In First Aid courses we learn to put cling film or stretch wrap on burns to reduce pain and infection, and enhance the healing process. But plastic can be death-dealing as well as life-giving. It is heartbreaking to see footage of sea birds feeding pieces of plastic to their young, or seals and sea turtles cruelly trapped in our plastic waste – a chilling symbol of how we have become trapped in a mindless, throwaway culture.

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