Revd Jackie

Rev. Jackie Bullen
Vicar

Christmas Gifts

Single-use

The Collins Dictionary word of the year for 2018 was “single-use”. The term came to prominence recently due to the amount of plastic we use which has reportedly quadrupled since 2013. It’s quite right that we should be concerned with plastic use. Most plastic is made from oil, so it’s not renewable, and it is almost indestructible by natural processes. Waste plastic has been found in the deepest parts of the ocean, and microscopic fragments of plastic are found in our food, with so far unknown effects on our health.

But, the “single-use” question goes far beyond just plastic bags and bottles. The clothes we wear, the furniture in our homes, and the devices we use, are increasingly designed to be discarded rather than repaired. And as we become used to throwaway items, it is possible that it can affect our relationship with people, too.

What is someone on a zero-hours contract, other than a “single-use person” - someone whose services we use, without caring how they survive when they are not working for us just at that moment?

I suggest that “Single-use” is also a spiritual issue, striking at the quality of our relationship with the world around us and with each other.

On the material side, there are encouraging signs: the plastic bag charge, introduced in 2015, has been successful, and is set to be extended. Initiatives such as the Restart Project are helping people repair rather than replace their devices and appliances, and putting pressure on governments and manufacturers to ensure goods are repairable.

The driver for single-use goods is economic, of course – it suits many manufacturers to have us buy new, rather than repair. Similarly, it suits some employers to pay only for the exact time their workers contribute, and to pay as little as possible for that time.

But throughout the Bible, economic justice is one of God’s key commands: people are not to be treated as disposable, but as valuable, because we are creatures made in God’s image. God repeatedly condemns those who use their economic power to abuse the poor. Jesus himself began his public ministry by quoting from the Old Testament to say he had come “to bring good news to the poor”.

Many people are now looking to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics, which is commendable, but let’s look far wider than that, and find ways to give a renewed and long lasting value to the people around us, and re-discover Jesus’ commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you”.

Jackie