After many of us eat fast-food, we throw away the cardboard pizza boxes, Styrofoam burger bins, wax-coated drink cups, plastic utensils and foil condiment containers.
More often than not, we discard absolutely everything in which our food was served. What is worse, virtually none of this is easily recyclable. Even when these items are produced using recycled materials, we throw them all away.
This lifestyle has become convenient for us. As we enjoy living in a disposable world, we have fast gratification with no cleanup required. As a result, many of us have lost our patience.
We want meals that can be prepared with one push of a button on the microwave. We even get annoyed when the microwave, coffee maker, toaster oven or bread maker must be “programmed.”
The latest “instant” is the instant hot coffee, tea and cocoa maker. The ingredients cost three times as much as the ingredients for a manual method and result in extra waste as the plastic pods are thrown away after a single use.
We love pleasures without the toil to get or to dispose of them. What we often fail to realize is that all that garbage is accumulating – sometimes with devastating effects, such as the “Great Pacific garbage patch.”
Instant, frozen or freeze-dried foods result in much disposable packaging, but we may even find pre-packaged foods at farmers markets. This prevents us from selecting just the produce that we actually want without any packaging.
Many items are placed on foam containers and wrapped in plastic. These items are so easy to throw away. Even if you wish to recycle them, few recycling centers will take those items.
We must recognize that convenience comes with high costs to the environment for the next generations because living a convenient lifestyle results in a high volume of garbage.
Have you ever thought about the amount of garbage you are producing and where it is all going?
Americans generate 4.6 pounds of trash per person per day. That is twice as much trash per person as most major countries around the world, which translates to 251 million tons per year.
We are not just throwing away disposable items, such as plates, plastic cups and spoons, but also large items like furniture, appliances, mattresses and other household goods.
It has become easier and more economical to throw away broken TVs, radios, computers and furniture rather than repairing, refurbishing or taking them to an electronics recycling facility.
This “disposable way of living” is creating huge amounts of damage to our land, as “disposable consumerism” has tripled waste in the U.S. since 1960.
Of the garbage produced, 32.5 percent is recycled or composted and 12.5 percent of waste is burned. This leaves 55 percent of our garbage filling landfills.
The garbage filling our landfills will continue to bring havoc to communities as chemicals from the garbage seep into the ground.
Some of these are potentially toxic compounds. Chemicals from different sources that mix in the landfills can have unpredictable effects on soil, air and water.
The “disposable lifestyle” that we have easily adapted is contrary to the Genesis story of creation because it goes against the good world that God created.
All of creation is good, and, as some Native Americans have said, it is ours to borrow, but God’s to own.
Our way of living is slowly destroying what is “good” in our world and bringing destruction and death to it.
Because our calling from God to be good stewards has often been neglected, it is uncertain what will stop us from harming the environment.
Perhaps once we realize that whatever we are throwing away will come back to haunt us, we will change our ways. What a different world it would be if there were no garbage trucks to pick up our garbage or landfills to dump our “stuff.”
If everything we wanted to get rid of, we had to get rid of in our own back yard, perhaps we would think differently of what we will buy or how we will live. Perhaps it would make us slow to purchase goods and dispose of them so readily.
The counterculture movements of the 1960s had the right idea, but it was still too easy to dispose rather than recycle.
Perhaps a future that runs out of landfill space will lead us to re-imagine ways to recycle, reuse and reduce our consumption and waste in our world.
Hopefully, this will lead us in the direction of being good consumers and good stewards of the Earth.
read also: To Bill Maher]
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 5 books, Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers (Palgrave, forthcoming), Contemplations from the Heart (Wipf & Stock, forthcoming), Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press). She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.