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UK News

Christians must lead the way in reducing plastic waste says charity head

by Donna Birrell

The head of conservation at Christian charity A Rocha UK is calling for Christians to lead the way and set an example in reducing the amount of plastic that is thrown away.

Andy Lester was speaking to Premier after a survey revealed that UK households are collectively throwing away nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic every year.

The Big Plastic Count was held during a week in May and organised by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic. It found that each home was throwing out an average of 66 pieces of packaging a week.
Andy Lester said that we all need to take collective responsibility and change our habits :

"It's fairly shocking, but the reality is, I'm as guilty as anybody else. It's so easy to dump the smaller bits of plastic in a rubbish bin, rather than take it out and into the recycling. Very quickly, those small bits add up, and it's those small bits that make all the difference.

"One of the biggest issues is soft plastic, so it's things like the liners for bins, it's the cellophane on a microwavable meal, certain things are much harder to recycle than others. The only solution is to find alternatives and the irony is the alternatives already exist. There are products that you can buy that are plastic free, using for example cornstarch. But as with many other things in life, there is a cost associated with it and many of the suppliers and manufacturers don't want to pass those costs on to consumers. So it's cheaper to continue doing what we've always done. But if we continue doing what we've always done, there is an existential threat to humanity. Plastic waste is one of a number of growing environmental problems that should deeply concern us".

Food and drink packaging made up an overwhelming majority (83 per cent) of the waste generated during the count. 

Whilst The Big Plastic Count did not monitor specific brands, Everyday Plastic said the dominance of supermarkets across the UK grocery market suggests that supermarket giants are responsible for a significant amount of this packaging waste.

Lester added: "It is about being less lazy and more proactive. I am the first to admit - and I'm an ecologist, I'm an environmentalist, I'm a campaigner - I am still lazy sometimes and throw away the odd plastic yoghurt pot. If I'm doing it, I'm pretty much guarantee everyone else is making that same mistake. So it means taking simple lifestyle steps, that will make a profound difference. Because if we don't do that, then we are all in deep trouble".

The research suggests recycling systems are failing because the majority of the plastic packaging waste being thrown away is not commonly collected for recycling at the kerbside. If found 62 per cent of recorded pieces of plastic are either not collected or poorly collected by UK local authorities.  

Lester said: "Of course governments need to make decisions that will change the way we behave, but ultimately, as a Christian community, we are called to be a people whose behaviour is different to society more generally. We should be at the cutting edge, we should be leading the way. So we can make really significant lifestyle choices. Completely independent from what government decides to do."


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