A Lenten Fast from Plastic 1: Recycling

“Repentance,” as Jesus seems to have understood it, does not mean hair-shirts and grief. It means coming to a realization that one is going the wrong way and then “turning around.” In our materialist, consumerist society, the realization could consist of recognizing how much damage our culture is doing to God’s creation and therefore to the lives of millions of people, animals and plants. The turning around could consist of determining, with the help of God and God’s people, to go against the values and practices of consumerism and materialism.

Probably the most important place to start is by rejecting plastic. While plastic has legitimate medical and technical uses, its consumer use has become so overwhelming that it is endangering the ecosystem and probably the health of animals and humans. So dangerous has consumer plastic become that 173 nations agreed to develop a legally binding treaty on plastics at the recent environmental assembly in Nairobi. But it’s going to be an uphill battle. The richest countries are the biggest culprits, and the democracies among them are going to be heavily pressured to block all attempts to control consumer plastic. Since plastic is a product of the petrol-chemical industry, the oil industry is heavily invested in expansion. Forbidding localities from making businesses charge for plastic bags keeps coming up in the Ohio legislature.

So, what do we as individuals do about this? The most important thing is not to do nothing. As I quoted Katherine Hayhoe last week, “Just start by doing something, anything, and then talk about it!” A good place to start is clearly understanding what plastic can be recycled and what cannot. SWACO, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, has an excellent website that shows you what is recyclable and how to do it. There are an amazing number of products that you can recycle, some of them curbside, others at special sites where you need to make a little more effort. But, an important thing to notice is at the bottom of the page where are listed the household products you cannot recycle: aluminum foil (cans are definitely OK), coffee pods, paper and plastic cups, paper towels, ceramics, styrofoam, and take-out containers. Remember that all the things you can recycle need to be rinsed out and clean.

Another thing to remember is that the plastic you recycle has limited usefulness. Depending on the type of plastic, it can be recycled between one and ten times before it looses all usefulness. On the other hand, aluminum cans, other metal cans, and glass can be recycled an infinite number of times. This is something to think about when you buy, say, a water bottle. Lots of plastic choices, but the aluminum of steel one can be recycled when you are done with it.

When shopping for groceries and cleaning supplies, it may be hard to find anything except plastic containers, but if you know what is the most recyclable, you can buy the product with a little easier conscience. There is an alternative, though. Two local stores give you the option of buying cleaning and personal care products in refillable containers, glass or steel. You can bring your own or purchase the containers at the store. The stores have large jugs of dish detergent, dish washer detergent, laundry detergent, body lotion, shampoo, and conditioner from which you can refill your container again and again, avoiding plastic containers altogether. So check out Reuse Revolution in the North Market Bridge Park or Koko the Shop on Indianola Avenue and on Westmoor Avenue in the Hilltop. These stores stock many other plastic free home and personal products, too.

Now that we’ve covered recycling, we can go on to other ways to live a more plastic free life in next week’s article.

Thanks for your commitment to praying and caring for God’s creation!

You can find this and all the Creation Care blogs for the church website I have written at my consolidating blog: ststephenscreationcare.blogspot.com

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