The problem of plastics: A reflection from Creation Justice Ministries

By Derrick Weston

Plastic first started being created on a global scale in the 1950s. Since then, annual plastic production has exploded to an estimated 460 million tons as of 2019.

While plastic has many beneficial uses, single-use plastics have become a real environmental threat. All manner of groceries and consumer goods come with plastic wrappings that ultimately end up in landfills, or worse, in our waterways. Those plastics then make their way into our food systems and ultimately into our bodies. Some studies estimate that the total mass of microplastic particles consumed by adults corresponds to 50 plastic bags per year or one credit card per day.

Plastic pollution is only one side of the problem. We also need to consider the health risks created by plastic production. People who live near plastic production facilities experience disproportionate levels of cancer, organ malfunction, impaired sensory organs, and birth defects. These facilities are also disproportionately located near Black, brown, and low-income communities. Adding to this, over 99 percent of plastic is made from fossil fuels. It’s estimated that by 2050, 20 percent of the oil consumed will be used for plastic production.

This is not a problem we can recycle our way out of. Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. And plastics can live in on in our ecosystem for up to 500 years.

All of these facts can be found in our Earth day resource, “Plastic Jesus: Real Faith in a Synthetic World.” We believe that before churches can take action, they have to understand the scope of the issue. We want to encourage you to download the resource, both so that you have these facts at your disposal but also so that you and your community of faith may be encouraged in finding ways that you can address this critical issue.

— Derrick Weston is coordinator for Theological Education and Training at Creation Justice Ministries, which is a partner organization of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. Download the “Plastic Jesus” resource for use on Earth Day Sunday and throughout April as Earth Month. In addition to worship resources and action suggestions, the resource includes three original songs—as recordings and as sheet music—commissioned for this year’s theme. Go to


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