Peter Nitshke - Congregation Manager
Does God have an opinion about plastic?
If God has an opinion about plastic what would it be?
I started to think about this back in 1998, when I was living in a Slum in Manila as a grassroot worker for a Christian NGO. Plastic waste was everywhere: on the roads, in every corner, in the river next to the slum and the riverbanks were full of litter too.
All our educational activities to teach people not to litter had shown very little fruit. We realized people were too poor to think of pollution. They were busy to survive, earn money and feed the family. This took all their energy and thinking of pollution was a luxury they did not have.
“What if we could just buy the litter?”, asked one of our friends and we all were stunned by the idea. We did some research and found that there was a market for plastic, glass, paper and metal.
Nobody was talking about ocean plastic then, but in a City like Manila, Plastic waste was already a huge problem.
Our plan was to create a solution in our slum community and we began a recycling business in early 2000. It was a great success and people started segregating their waste and sell their recyclables to us. It had an immediate impact in the lives of people. I heard a mother share that they were able to buy fish now and another shared that she bought school supplies for their children. We were very excited that in our slum, we made a difference in providing a handful of jobs and some extra income for many people. We just did not dream big enough to come up with a scalable solution.
17 years later, I found this scalable solution in the Plastic Bank. January 2017, we started to organize the Plastic Bank in Manila. In June we started our collection center in partnership with World Vision in Baseco, Manila. The Plastic Bank enlivened me to dream big about revealing the value of plastic waste to fight poverty and pollution.
Now, what does God have to do with it? God gave us the resources and the intellect to create plastic. But plastic never should become waste. There is no waste in nature. It is all circular and is transformed again and again. The circular model is God’s model to sustain life. With the new Interfaith program, the Plastic Bank is inviting faith-based movements to join us in creating this circular model in the way we use plastic. Our way of consuming goods and our faith cannot be separated. Our spiritual foundation and our relationship to the material world are intertwined.
The concept of waste is not part of this. Waste does not exist, but all material is being transformed. Our calling is to ensure it is being transformed into something good, lifegiving and useful. I have not found any approach to plastic that displays this better than the Plastic Bank way. It powerfully uses the circular approach to transform the material, the consumer and whole communities of people collecting the material. It puts faith into action. It uses plastic, the way God would want us to use it.