God & Our Disposable Culture

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What do we do with our trash? How does the way we treat our waste affect the way we see the world? How does it impact the way we see each other? Is our disposable culture hurting us?

Recycling has been suffering from some bad PR recently. For many people, myself included, recycling is a mythical activity. I know I should do it and usually do. But, I do not know where the contents of my single-stream recycling container go each week. Ignorance might be bliss but it is not good for the planet.

A story on NPR’s All Things Considered talks about the bleak future of recycling when countries like China stop buying U.S. trash. Last year, China stopped accepting plastic waste from the U.S. What now?

Scientists, urban planners, product designers, and other well-qualified people can assess the possibilities. I approach the question of our waste from a theological point of view. Where does God fit in with our waste?

Psalm 24.1 reminds us that the earth is the Lord’s. The items we use and the items we throw away both belong to God. Taking care of the planet has a firm foundation in theology (think eco-theology).

When we use something and quickly throw it away, we feed a disposable outlook on life. In other words, I can use something and when it is no longer useful to me, I can throw it away. Beyond single-use bags and containers, we encounter planned obsolescence in our phones, computers, and other devices. It is cheaper to buy a new whatever than to repair the old one.

Using less, simplifying, being grateful for what we have—these are all ways we can stand against a disposable culture that relies on someone else to deal with our garbage. And, we can be better stewards of the world God has entrusted us with protecting.

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