Our Bible verse for today: “I brought you to a fertile land to eat its fruit and bounty, but after you entered, you defiled my land, you made my inheritance detestable.” Jeremiah 2:7 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Paper or plastic?.”
In Jeremiah 2:7 we read of the people of God being accused of having defiled the beautiful and fruitful land God gave them. In one sense they defiled it spiritually by worshipping pagan idols on land the Lord had declared holy. But another way in which they defiled it was by not properly caring for the land itself. Their farming and grazing practices were careless, and they wasted resources. The region was renowned for its abundant crops and luxurious vegetation, but after being occupied by careless stewards it was quickly becoming a wasteland.
This past summer I was kayaking out in the Atlantic Ocean when I saw a plastic bottle floating in the water. It was only one, but it reminded me of what is known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. That is a floating patch of garbage in the ocean between Hawaii and California which is 600,000 square miles in size (twice the size of Texas). It includes approximately 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. The garbage is mostly from Asia and has mysteriously accumulated over two decades. It is an environmental disaster. It’s hard to know how much total plastic has accumulated in the oceans around the world, but scientists estimate that 10 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. There is much more than that in the landfills of the world.
Plastic is a man-made substance. It is made from a combination of synthetic and organic compounds. It is malleable and is easily formed into a wide variety of products. The blessing of plastic is its versatility and durability. The problem with plastic is its long life. The length of time it takes plastic to decompose depends on its composition. The more organic material used, the less durable the item is but the faster it decomposes. The more synthetic components it contains the stronger and more durable the item is, but the longer it takes to decompose. The most durable plastic items can take as long as 1000 years to decompose. Soft drink bottles require 450 years. The plastic bags you get at the supermarket take 10-20 years to decompose.
So, what does that mean for Christians who are committed to being good stewards of God’s Creation? Should we use plastic or not? Being manmade, plastic is not a natural part of God’s creation. It is something that humans introduced into God’s creation and it does cause an environmental dilemma, so what should we do?
Plastic is so much a part of everyday life that it would be impossible to stop using it altogether. But because there is so much of it, and because it does last for so long, it makes sense to reduce our use of it if we can. We should recycle our plastic when possible. If you have a choice between paper or plastic at the grocery store why not choose paper? If you can attach a filter to your water faucet to produce clean drinking water instead of using an endless supply of small plastic bottles, it makes sense to do so. If you have a choice between purchasing an item made from plastic, or from a more biodegradable product, perhaps the biodegradable product would be the better choice.
Again, reason and common sense prevail here. Plastics are a part of modern life and they do make life better in many ways. But we also need to be smart about our use of it. There are problems with plastic. As good stewards of God’s creation it makes sense to limit our use of it where we can.