Plastic is fantastic. It is watertight, lightweight, inexpensive, hygienic, versatile, and easy to manufacture. No wonder that, in a little over a century, it has become fundamental to the quality of human life. While the use of wood, stone, clay, bone, leather, metal, and glass has for centuries made life better for people, the contribution of plastic to human flourishing is immeasurable.
That success is reflected in the fact that our bodies are in almost constant contact with this substance. If that is not because of the clothes we wear, it’s because of the smartphone, steering wheel, toothbrush, suitcase, or pen that is in our hands. Or it’s because of the glasses on our face, the audio device in our ears, the keyboard beneath our fingers, or the bank note and credit card in our pockets.
As those who have been hospitalized will know, scarcely any treatment is administered without the use of plastic. Anyone who has visited a poor community anywhere in the world will understand the development value of a plastic bucket, bag, shoe sole, bottle of water, mosquito net, solar light, and toilet components. Plastic saves and dignifies lives, the world over.
What is damaging life, the world over, is plastic waste. This is what is wreaking havoc to wildlife and threatening food chains, including our own. This is without excuse, as most plastic is easy to recycle. Plastic is not the problem. The problem is with humans – we are wasteful. Christians are amongst those addressing this matter. But we need to make sure the severity of the challenge does not eclipse hope. Trust in God’s providential sustaining of the creation is an attractive and distinctive Christian virtue.
Plastic has been such a blessing to humankind that it deserves to be considered one of God’s greatest material gifts to human beings. That gift has come through the exercise of the ingenuity with which God has endowed us as we have sought to explore the potential of the good earth he has created and placed in our hands. The challenge now is for us to produce, steward, decompose, and recycle plastic more responsibly. It is also to find viable alternatives to plastic that are greener. That is how God’s Spirit, working through human minds, will bring about a sequel to the Plastics Age.
Peter S Heslam