AS Queenslanders prepare for a ban on plastic shopping bags from July 1, Catholics are being urged to think more broadly about giving up harmful, single-use plastic items to protect the environment.
“Using plastics is not a respectful use of resources,” Brisbane Catholic Erin Kennedy, a member of the archdiocesan Justice and Peace commission, said.
“It has such a detrimental effect that we might not see immediately but is still affecting the environment around us and is a real disrespect to the creation we have been given to use.”
The plastic bag ban, bringing Queensland in line with most states, is hoped to reduce the impact of single-use plastics on sea life – such as sea turtles and sea birds that swallow bags or become entangled in them.
It’s estimated that close to one billion single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags are used in Queensland each year.
While the majority of these bags end up in landfill, about 16 million plastic shopping bags end up strewn across the countryside or in waterways and the marine environment each year.
This is equivalent in weight to 96 small cars.
From July 1, retailers are no longer able to supply single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness to customers, for free or at a charge.
This includes compostable, degradable and biodegradable bags as they break down in the environment in the same way as conventional plastic shopping bags and can still harm the environment and wildlife.
Inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, Mrs Kennedy said it was a good time to consider all the bag-carrying alternatives.
“Even though you buy the green bags in places like Coles and Woolies the best thing is to go old-school and use a calico or fabric bag,” she said, holding aloft the cloth bags she uses for shopping.
“Often in fruit shops or supermarkets you can source boxes which are a bit easier.
“It’s just about a change in mentality. Even if you go to the shop to just buy some milk or bread there’s nothing to stop you carrying just that to the car or on your bus trip home.”
Mrs Kennedy is keen to bring the message of Laudato Si’ to parish life in Brisbane.
As well as plastic bags, she points out how much plastic we use in our daily lives, and how much we throw away, including Styrofoam cups and plastic plates and cutlery.
Mrs Kennedy said parishes could consider every local event – a morning tea or a barbecue – as an opportunity to enact environmentally-friendly change by steering clear of plastic plates and cutlery.
“In parishes and church communities we are often running events and having opportunities where hospitality is a big part of what we do,” she said.
“Buying paper and eco-compostable cups and plates is a very easy thing we can do straight away that really does make a difference.”
Some parishes already have active committees working on environmental awareness campaigns, and implementing a range of eco-friendly solutions addressing catering, lighting and insulation, power generation and water use.
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