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Lent scheme urges Christians to use less plastic

01 March 2019

Help the poor and the environment with new habit, says Tearfund


A poster for the campaign #pennies4plastics

A poster for the campaign #pennies4plastics

CHRISTIANS are being urged to use less plastic this Lent, even if giving it up is a guarantee of failure and guilt.

Tearfund has launched a campaign that calls on people to make a commitment to using less plastic during the season, and also to donate to a new appeal to build recycling hubs in Pakistan to tackle waste problems.

The charity’s global advocacy and influencing director, Dr Ruth Valerio, said that cutting down on plastic was not just a trendy movement, but a call on all Christians. “Alongside the environmental implications, uncollected rubbish causes death and disease and flooding and climate change. How we respond to people in poverty and the world that God has made is part of our spiritual discipline.”

Lent was the perfect opportunity, she said, to “repent” from the “sin” of over-consumption of plastic, but also to begin to set up new, more environmentally friendly practices that can carry on after Easter. “For me, doing something like this over Lent is every bit as appropriate as doing a particular Bible study, or a set thing of prayers.”

Last year, Dr Valerio set up a Facebook page to chart her own personal attempt to reduce plastic use during Lent, which has now grown into an active community of 3500, from 55 countries (News, 16 February 2018).

MEANINGFUL CHOCOLATEThe Fairtrade Easter egg, which has now switched to plastic-free packaging

Now, she is urging all of Tearfund’s supporters to join her in eschewing straws, water bottles, excessive packaging, and other unnecessary plastic during Lent.

“I’ve called it plastic-less Lent because I think plastic-free is impossible, and it makes people feel guilty,” she explained. “I wanted to do something which was empowering and encouraging, rather than condemnatory.”

Those who take Tearfund’s Plastic Pledge are given tips on easy ways to cut back on plastic, but Dr Valerio said that the first step for many would be to stop buying water, tea, or coffee in disposable single-use bottles and cups, and instead to carry reusable containers.

Plastic waste caused devastation for people in the developing world, Dr Valerio said. The build-up of unrecycled plastic waste could cause flooding and spread disease, while burning it — which is the most common way to dispose of plastic in poorer countries — damages health through air pollution, and contributes to climate change.

To tackle this, Tearfund is working to build up to ten recycling hubs inside slums in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi, and Hyderabad in India. Besides creating jobs for locals, the hubs will reduce the harmful build-up or incineration of plastic waste, protecting health and the atmosphere.

Every pound donated to the appeal will be match-funded by the British Government. To donate, visit www.tearfund.org/ukaidmatch.

Tearfund is not the only organisation to reduce its use of plastic this Lent. The Meaningful Chocolate Company, a Christian firm that has for years produced a Fairtrade Easter egg that includes a booklet telling the Bible story, has switched to plastic-free packaging, drawing approval from the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu. “I am delighted that an Easter egg is taking seriously the care of our planet,” he said.

In Ireland, the Anglican Church has launched a #pennies4plastic campaign for Lent, which encourages individuals, parishes, and schools to reduce their plastic use while also raising money in recyclable jars that will be used to fund a Waste Aid project in The Gambia.

The education adviser for the Irish Bishops’ Appeal, Lydia Monds, said: “Ireland is by far the EU’s worst offender when it comes to buying single-use plastics. This is not an issue for an enthusiastic few. . . This is an issue for all of us.”

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