Southeastern Synod ELCA

Celebrate Earth Day: End Plastic Pollution!

Cornelia Pearson - April 10, 2018

 

We frequently read about how Americans consume too much and recycle too little.  This message becomes even more apparent when one views the overflowing garbage cans each week in a typical American neighborhood.  Did you know that 12 percent of the world’s population lives in North America and Western Europe and accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending? Slightly more than 33 percent of the world’s population lives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa yet accounts for only 3.2 percent of consumption spending.
 
Each year for the past 48 years, Earth Day, a nationwide event to honor the earth, has been celebrated on April 22, the first day of the northern hemisphere Spring. This year is no exception with the theme of Earth Day being End Plastic Pollution. The concept of pollution from plastic and other items has been promoted for years in recycling programs, is easy to understand and does not take much money or thought to incorporate into our daily habits. From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet.
 
We have only to read Psalm 24, Verse 1 to be reminded “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who dwell therein.”  What are we each doing in our small space in this world to care for God’s earth?  Have you made recycling a part of your weekly activities? Do you and your church recycles paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, batteries, and cardboard?  Copier ink cartridges can even be returned to the company after they have outlived their usefulness.    
 
As caretakers of God’s world we are reminded that we must do a better job of reducing our consumption, reusing the resources that we can and recycling what we cannot reuse.  The following 2013 Eleven Facts About Recycling from http://www.dosomething.org tell us that humans (especially Americans) on God’s earth have a long way to go before meeting our obligations to God in caring for His world.
  1. The average American uses 650 pounds of paper each year – 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year if all that paper was recycled.
  2. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  3. A typical family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water a year.  That's a lot of containers that can all be recycled or not used in the first place!
  4. About 80% of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet our recycling rate is only 34.1%.
  5. Every month Americans throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper (think: Empire State Building), but all of these jars are recyclable!
  6. Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It's twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It's also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.
  7. Recycling one ton (about 2,000 pounds) of paper saves 17 trees, two barrels of oil (enough to run the average car for 1,260 miles), 4,100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for six months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space, and 60 pounds of pollution.
  8. The 17 trees saved by recycling one ton of paper can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air each year.
  9. If all of our newspapers were recycled, we could save about 250 million trees each year! If every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we could save about 25 million trees each year.
  10. More than 20 million Hershey's Kisses are wrapped each day, using 133 square miles of aluminum foil. Believe it not, ALL that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it so most it goes in the trash!
  11. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours. In spite of this, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every three months!
If you have not found a recycling center close to you, look for one and give God a hand by doing your share to care for His world!  Develop a habit of making Earth Day every day helping to End Plastic    Pollution as well as pollution from other recyclable products.  
References:  Do Something, 2013, http://www.dosomthing.org.
                     earthday.org
                     Earth Day, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia,  wikipedia.org.
                     Great Pacific Garbage Patch, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/great_pacific_garbage_patch.
                     The New English Bible, Oxford University Press, New York, 1976.  
                     Worldwatch Institute, Vision for a Sustainable World, http://www.worldwatch.org.
 
Cornelia Pearson, RN, MN, Chair
Health Ministries Task Force