The image of a sperm whale chewing and trying to digest a big piece of plastic has lodged long term in my mind! Programmes like ‘Blue Planet’ & ‘Plastic Ocean’ trumpet a tragic effect of our ‘throw away culture’, product of thoughtless consumerism. In our seas, it’s now considered that there is a 1:2 ratio of plastic to plankton and more and more plastic is entering our food chain.
I’m all in favour of ‘reduce, recycle reuse’ campaigns. Being offered free plastic bags in an English supermarket surprised me. First thought, “Great, Save a few bob!” quickly gave way to sadness and pride that we now have fewer polly bags flying in the Scottish wind because we pay extra for plastic bags, encouraging the use of re-useable bags. Yet still waves of waste clog our streets, rivers, fields, beaches & seas.
I’m flabbergasted at how readily some people, old and young alike, jettison junk
from cars & ditch cans, bottles and other containers at their feet. Is it just severe fines for littering that keep cities in Austria and Canada so clean? Does pride, education, values, world view and responsibility for both waste and the world around us, perhaps have more to do with it?
There is a resigned realism about our governments’ approach to the plastic waste problem: aim to reduce plastic use and increase use of more biodegradable containers. This will hopefully reduce the UK’s pollution, but are we also saying, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” “Once a litter lout always a litter lout.” or “Once a sinner always a sinner.”
Christianity is thoroughly ‘realistic’ about humanity’s tendency to botch and mess up (Sin), but also tremendously hopeful about the attitude change possible, when we realise the error of our ways and are transformed, inside out, by how much God values us personally and the world around us.
I still can’t erase from memory that image of a whale eating a chunk of plastic as if it was a treat. I’m very proud that North Ayrshire Council’s sanitary department is a leader in recycling the majority of our uplifted waste, but the amount of discarded litter around town gets me angry, prayerful and hopeful, that we can help one another to value and look after our world a bit better.