War on waste

  • Australians use an estimated five billion plastic bags a year, that’s just over 13 million new bags being used every day.


  • It is estimated that around 50 million bags enter the Australian litter stream every year.
  • Australians are the second highest producers of waste per person in the world, with each of us sending over 690 kilograms of waste to landfill each year (the United States is the highest waste producer).
  • The amount of waste placed in landfill each year in Australia is enough to cover the state of Victoria.
  • Plastic has remained the most common category of rubbish picked up on Clean Up Australia day over the last 20 years. In 2009, it made up 29 per cent of all rubbish found (Source: Clean Up Australia Day website).


Many of you will have seen or heard of the ABC’s awesome War on Waste series, an entertaining look at the amount of waste produced by Australians and how to reduce it. This program has succeeded in sparking conversation around Australia about the types and amounts of waste we produce, and its impacts. It’s exciting to see, and I hope churches will take this opportunity to connect with their communities around waste issues.

Personally, I’ve been thinking about the series a lot; feeling guilty every time I put something in the bin and trying to be even more vigilant about taking my keep-cup with me everywhere. I have started saving soft plastics to go in the special soft plastic recycling bins at the supermarket, I’ve been trying to implement some ideas provided in the Zero Waste Facebook groups I’m part of and I’ve been reflecting on how I seem to be particularly wasteful when I’m tired, stressed or in a hurry.

I have a growing sense that being green is all about lifestyle, about hundreds of tiny daily decisions, all rolled together. I don’t just mean buying “green” versions of things, and letting business and governments get away with making this just another market niche, but truly rethinking the way we live, and the things we consume every day. This might take many small decisions, but it involves something huge: a re-aligning and re-committing of our lives to God’s vision of the renewal of all creation.

I’m coming to a new understanding of what it means for us to be truly faithful disciples of Jesus within our time. I think we need to widen our scope of compassion and thinking, as the Holy Spirit so often challenges us to do. We “have heard that it was said” to be wise stewards and to care for creation, but I say that a central focus of our whole lifestyles should be sustainability. Every Christian should be on a journey to reduce their waste, their energy use and their impact upon God’s creation. This is not an optional extra, not something to talk about just occasionally, but something that should be part of our DNA as Christians seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

I think it’s easy for us to get distracted from what’s most important about the way we live. Instead of changing ourselves, sometimes we end up judging others and trying to convince ourselves we are better than them over small things. But Christ always calls us back to love, back to what really matters. Our lives are a gift from God, and as Christians we should be expected to appreciate the value of, and the responsibilities that come with, that gift.

What if instead of Jesus bumper stickers on our cars, we proclaimed our faith to others by saving water, travelling on public transport even when it’s inconvenient, helping with conservation projects for endangered species and working continually to reduce our waste as much as possible? What if our “uniforms” as Christians became overalls, hiking boots and gardening gloves, if our bookstores became full of eco-literature and eco-products and we shared skills, books, tools, and fruit and veg from our gardens with our churches each week?

What if we could look at the most dedicated environmentalists in the world and know that they must be Christians, that their love for God must be what inspires them to such faithfulness, such discipleship?

Does your heart begin to beat with the same light of hope, the same sense of calling as mine does?

Let us rise to God’s challenge. Let us be disciples of the Good News for ALL creation, in all nations, times and places.

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