New campaign highlights the human cost of our global plastic waste crisis
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For release: Wednesday 24 May 2023
Updated: 11 April 2023
“The Rubbish Campaign” by Christian agency Tearfund is highlighting the human cost of the global plastic waste problem and calling on Australian households to join the effort to address this rubbish crisis.
‘The Rubbish Campaign’ is calling on Australian Christians to unite to address the urgent waste crisis that is unfolding: in our households and around the world.
Already suffering the worst impacts of COVID-19, extreme weather and hunger, growing landfills are making poverty worse for vulnerable communities around the world.
Between 2000 and 2019, plastics production doubled and plastic waste generation more than doubled, with nearly two thirds of this coming from plastics with lifetimes of under five years. (OECD, 2022).
Australia now produces 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, equating to 100 kilograms per person (Dept of Agriculture, Water and Environment, 2021 report).
The reality is that plastic pollution is damaging the health and livelihoods of millions of people already living in poverty.
While the global conversation around waste and plastic pollution has accelerated, so has the impact of plastic pollution, but the human cost to this issue has largely been ignored and un-reported.
Mismanaged waste is responsible for up to a million deaths each year – that’s one person every 30 seconds (Tearfund, Burning Question Report, 2019).
Growing landfills continue to have a severe impact on the health outcomes and agricultural livelihoods of people living in the poorest areas across the world.
In the slum communities of Mumbai where Tearfund’s partner Saahasee works, rubbish is a huge problem.
Poonam Nair, from Tearfund’s partner Saahasee in India says:
People literally don’t have a place to put their garbage…it’s become normal practice to put plastic waste in the drains. The ramification is that most of the time these drains are blocked.
Because people are moving from rural areas towards the city in search of work, the population is increasing every month, so plastic pollution is also increasing. The waste that collects all over the community is impacting health.
While we are seeing the harmful impact of plastic pollution, the world is starting to take notice.
During 2023 and 2024, nearly 200 governments are meeting to develop the first-ever international agreement on plastic pollution. This agreement could help end the world’s rubbish problem.
Already, Australia has shown a commitment to address the plastic pollution crisis by joining the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution.
But ambition must translate to action to ensure the full impact of plastic pollution on our world's most vulnerable communities is addressed.
Tearfund is encouraging Australians to be part of the solution and to demonstrate their care for their global neighbours by signing our petition. The petition calls on the Australian Government to do all it can to influence global negotiations and ensure that this plastics treaty helps end the world’s rubbish problem.
Tearfund CEO Matthew Maury is urging the government and Australian households to re-frame this issue from an environmental emergency to a social emergency that is costing human lives.
“God has blessed us with a beautiful world to look after and treasure. But right now, our world has a rubbish problem – and it’s severely affecting the health and wellbeing of people living in poverty.
“A concerted global effort is needed to address this problem and deal with the scourge of plastic pollution and its impacts on poverty. The plastics treaty is a unique opportunity to do this.
“There is a growing awareness in Australia that plastic pollution is causing an environmental emergency, but it is also causing a social emergency. Behind the mountains of rubbish that pollutes and spoils our earth and oceans, our lives are made harder, and even cut short, by its impacts.
“Plastic pollution is harming people’s livelihoods, and undermining the progress made in recent decades to end poverty. It is literally making people sick. Dumping and burning of rubbish releases toxic fumes, floods communities and is causing up to a million deaths each year.” Mr Maury said.
You can sign up to Tearfund Australia’s petition here and learn small and practical ways about how your household can reduce the global waste footprint here.
Interviews are available.
For more information, please contact Rachel Reva De Giorgio at: [email protected] or 0426 965 384.
**Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment: National Plastics Plan 2021
Media Talking Points
For Christian Media outlets
What is ‘This is Rubbish’ Campaign about?
- We are facing a waste crisis in Australia and across the globe. Mismanaged waste is responsible for up to a million deaths each year – that’s one person every 30 seconds.
- Tearfund knows that plastic pollution and waste management is a hot topic issue, but there is little to no discussion on the human cost of waste pollution. As Christians, we cannot ignore the human suffering and cost our daily habits are contributing to.
- Australia now produces 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, equating to 100 kilograms per person. Of this, only 13 per cent of plastic is recovered and 84 per cent is sent to landfill.
- Australia has a huge opportunity to be part of the plastic waste solution and not just be contributors to the problem. The United Nations’ decision to develop a legally binding treaty on plastic pollution presents an incredible opportunity to make a real impact on this issue.
- Australia’s decision in November 2022 to join the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, shows Australia’s commitment to address the plastic pollution crisis, to tackle poverty and protect the livelihood of waste pickers who rely on recycling for basic survival, at the risk of their safety and their own health.
- The plastics can take decades it not centuries to decompose, and we are just starting to see the effects of our ‘out of sight, out of mind’ culture
- While we are encouraged by the progress of the Australian government with the plastic treaty, we need Australians to understand the severity of this issue: it’s not just an environmental issue: it’s a human crisis that requires action today.
- As Christians, Jesus commanded us to love our neighbour. This directive goes beyond the people living in our neighbourhood. We have a responsibility to care for our global brothers and sisters who are suffering due to Australia’s waste mismanagement.
- Each person has a part to play. One person can make a difference. Each household reducing the use of single plastics can have a significant effect on the issue that toxic waste environment that is having devastating impacts on our global neighbours who have to deal with our growing landfills.
Why are we still talking about waste pollution?
- Australians have become a society that is addicted to convenience. But caring for creation and caring for our neighbours are not mutually exclusive issues. As Christians we have a responsibility to care about God’s creation and our global neighbours.
- The problem of plastic pollution is increasing in the places where they work, with serious health implications for people whose lives are already incredibly hard.
- There is a growing awareness in Australia that plastic pollution is causing an environmental emergency, but it is also causing a social emergency.
Why should we care about this issue when the Government is already taking steps to address it?
- Plastic pollution is harming people’s livelihoods, and undermining the progress made in recent decades to end poverty. And it is literally making people sick. Dumping and burning of rubbish releases toxic fumes, floods communities and is causing up to a million deaths each year.
- We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we are partnering with Christian agencies on the ground who can see the crisis unfolding and can understand how best to work within a local culture to respond to the issue.
- Tearfund Australia works in partnership with locally based Christian agencies that better understand the needs of their communities, are better able to connect with local people and organisation and encourage positive and sustainable change.
Why bother to recycle when it ends up in landfills anyway?
- When you sign the petition, you can join other Australians and make your voice heard to the Australian government, to show that you are committed to seeing action taken on this treaty and you care about giving a ‘fair go’ to everyone – living in Australia and your neighbours beyond.
- The example of Redcycle demonstrates the need for addressing plastic pollution at the system level. This treaty presents an opportunity to impact the entire life cycle of plastic and address the full impact of plastic pollution.
- We want to encourage Australians that you do have a significant part to play. If each household reduced their use of single use plastics – swap your plastic grocery bag for a re-usable bag or replace your plastic water bottle with a re-usable bottle, it can significantly reduce the waste output.