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Christian charity issues safety notice to world leaders tackling plastic pollution

by Premier Journalist

The United Nations Plastic Treaty negotiations are underway in Paris this week, as scientist, Christians and aid organisations renew their pleas for more to be done to help those in developing countries, who often face the biggest challenges.

The global treaty is seen as the most important international environmental agreement since the Paris Climate deal, and could be the first legally-binding agreement on plastic pollution. Supporters hope it will help reduce production of plastic and ensure better waste management and recycling processes.

Christian Charity, Tearfund, is calling on world leaders to use their position to push for a plastic treaty that fully addresses the impacts of plastic pollution globally.

On Tuesday, a group of activists dressed as lifeguards issued a safety notice to those attending the meeting.  Their action was sparked by new research from Tearfund and Resource Futures, that found over 200 million people are at significant risk of more severe and frequent flooding due to plastic pollution. 

Ill-health is also a major factor, as waterways and drains become blocked by discarded plastic, resulting in poor sanitation which in turn enables the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera.

Dr Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa, a Tearfund partner and campaigner from Malawi, told Premier Christian News most of the plastic products in her country are still 'single use', which is something she'd like to see changed.

"The most important thing is that governments can agree to halt production, especially of that plastic that we don't need... there's a lot of things that are being produced that we can do without." 

She added that plastics that do need to be produced should be regulated, with processes for reusing or recycling it made available to everybody.

For people living in poverty, 'waste picking' can be another way to make a small income.  Dr Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa would like to see that work acknowledged and the workers protected, "whereby we have people that are in between the waste and it reaching a recycling point... those people are recognised, and they are provided with the right working situations."

She said that Christians have a role to play, in countries like Malawi as well as here in the UK. "This is a justice problem," she told Premier. "This is a problem that impacts people's health, people's livelihoods. And so therefore, as churches we should care." 

She added that churches can be role models and lead by example when it comes to management of waste, "Churches can make choices about what they do in their setting with their communications with regards to plastic.  When you have your events, are you going to bring water in bottles or are you going to ask people to bring their own and provide filters... those simple choices in our lives that we can make. I think everybody should make those decisions."

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