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The power of one in caring for our world

We can all join the movement to end plastic pollution in our time.

This year, World Environment Day turns 50. For half a century, 5 June has been observed as the United Nations international day of engagement, with the aim of deepening people’s environmental awareness and pursuing greater cooperation for the care of the Earth – our common home. It is worth asking how much we have achieved in that time.

Set against the present ecological crisis, it is easy to be pessimistic, but World Environmental Day has certainly garnered a greater social awareness about the need to care for the environment and the global dimensions of that need. Over the years, World Environment Day has drawn attention to ozone layer depletion, toxic chemicals, desertification and climate change. It has been a platform that encouraged us all to value clean air, forests, rivers and seas, and to strive together to protect our common home.

On the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day, the theme is ‘Stop Plastic Pollution’. Here’s a quick hit of facts:

• More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year worldwide (the equivalent of 137kg of plastic per person every day). Of this plastic, half is designed to be used only once and less than 10 per cent is recycled.

• It is estimated that 19-23 million tonnes of plastic end up in lakes, rivers and seas annually.

• Microplastics (tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter) find their way into food, water and air. It is estimated that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles a year – and many more if inhalation is considered.

• Discarded or burnt single-use plastics harm human health and biodiversity and pollute every ecosystem in the world, from mountaintops to ocean floors.

While the breadth of the issue of plastic pollution is (literally) breathtaking, the good news is that every person has the capacity to make a difference and reduce plastic waste. As individuals, families and communities, in partnership with businesses and government, we can effectively end plastic pollution.

“Every person has the capacity to make a difference and reduce plastic waste.”

Plastic pollution is a reflection of our culture, where things are so readily thought of as ‘disposable’. We simply throw things away, not really considering where they go or what happens to them.

The next time we want that product, we simply buy a new one, and the cycle starts again. I continue to be inspired by stories of people pursuing zero-waste lifestyles, not only eliminating plastic pollution but challenging the wasteful- ness of our contemporary lifestyle. They offer a different perspective, modelling a more thoughtful way of living, seeing all waste as a precious resource that can find new life, time and again.

Could waste be a spiritual issue? It is possible that most of the rubbish we generate is grounded in attitudes such as indifference and ingratitude, failing to see the true value of things before us.

I am reminded of a story of Jesus where he miraculously fed a massive crowd (see John chapter 6, verses 1-13). As the thousands of men, women and children disperse, he tells his disciples to gather the pieces that are left over. “Let nothing be wasted,” he says (verse 12).

On this World Environment Day, I invite you to be more ‘waste conscious’ and become part of the movement to eliminate plastic pollution in our lifetime. May we hear Jesus encouraging us, “Let nothing be wasted.”


• Actively reduce what is going into your bin • Buy items with less packaging • Recycle everything! • Put in the effort to research options for items that are harder to recycle • Compost food scraps • Stop impulse shopping • Pick up some litter when you are out and about


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