From Aotearoa to Zambia: We're part of a global movement tackling rubbish

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Maya Duckworth
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With a problem as widespread and complex as plastic pollution, we need a global movement committed to addressing it. That’s exactly what the Rubbish Campaign is. We are part of an international movement of Christians who are uniting to ask our world leaders for a robust Global Plastics Treaty that addresses plastic pollution and its impact on communities living in poverty.

From Aotearoa to Zambia, people are coming together with a collective vision for a future where everyone can access the goods they need without having to sacrifice their right to a clean, healthy environment. People are taking action in their households and neighbourhoods, and influencing conversations and decisions on a global scale. Come and meet some fellow waste warriors, learn about how they’re tackling our world’s rubbish problem, and find out how you too can be part of this global movement!


Caption: Coqueiral Baptist Church in Brazil is working locally and globally to address the issue of plastic pollution. Photo: Tearfund


In Brazil, the Coqueiral Baptist Church has been working to address plastic pollution for the last few years. Their focus started locally. Their community had no local waste collection services, which meant their nearby river became congested with plastic and rubbish. This was a big issue, particularly after heavy rainfall when their local river flooded.

The church would respond to these floods with wraparound support for their local community. They’d provide meals, shelter, medical help and send out brave volunteers to rescue those stranded. The church also started to think about its own waste, swapping their single-use coffee cups for reusable ones and talking about caring for creation during services.

As a church community, Coquerial Baptist also began engaging in advocacy and petitioning their local mayor to clear up the rubbish in their river and neighbourhood. More recently, this advocacy has turned global through joining the Rubbish Campaign and campaigning for a strong Global Plastics Treaty.


Caption: Church leaders, activists and Tearfund UK staff join to launch the next phase of the Rubbish Campaign outside the British Houses of Parliament. Photo: Tearfund


In the United Kingdom, there’s a movement also calling for a strong Global Plastics Treaty that reduces plastic production, supports the crucial work of waste pickers, and ends the impact of plastic pollution on people living in poverty.

Tearfund UK has launched a petition asking their Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to push for a treaty that achieves these important things. Alongside speaking out, individuals have also been acting through prayer and lifestyle changes. Most recently, Tearfund supporters and celebrities alike played bin-go throughout the month of July, taking actions like visiting a refill shop, bringing their reusable water bottle places, and sharing the petition on social media.


Caption: Young Bolivians march in the city of Cochabamba, demanding action on plastic pollution. Photo: Tearfund


In Bolivia, 38 young people recently took action on plastic pollution. They’re part of the Latin America and Caribbean Youth Network, a group passionate about caring for God’s creation and loving its neighbours. Already, these young campaigners have organised a march, met with the Manager of Environmental Affairs of the city of Cochabamba, and had the media talking about plastic pollution and the Rubbish campaign.


Caption: Surfers come face-to-face with the reality of plastic pollution in a way that many other Australians don’t which is why Christian Surfers Australia have also joined in. Photo: Tearfund


In Australia, our neighbours over the ditch have been tackling plastic pollution through the power of photography, prayer and petitions. Led by Tearfund Australia, thousands of Australians have signed a petition asking their government to advocate for a strong Global Plastics Treaty. Many Australians have also engaged with plastic pollution on a personal level, reflecting on their reliance on single-use plastics in their day-to-day lives.


Caption: By praying, speaking up and changing our lifestyles, we can love our global neighbours who face the worst impacts of plastic pollution. Photo: Adobe


Here in Aotearoa, we’re taking action too! Already, we’ve had local media talking about plastic pollution, we’ve met with the people representing New Zealand at the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, and we’ve seen Kiwis around the country signing the Rubbish Petition.

By praying, speaking up and changing our lifestyles, we can love our global neighbours and put pressure on governments to listen to the voices of people suffering right now. With all of us speaking, acting, and praying together, we think it’s possible we’ll land a Global Plastics Treaty that addresses our world’s plastics problem.


Join Christians around the world to pray this prayer by Jessica Bwali from Zambia.


Creator God,

Thank you for the many good gifts you have given us—so much beauty and abundance in creation all around us.

And yet we hear creation groaning, and we have heavy hearts because we know so much of creation’s pain is due to our actions. Forgive us for polluting the environment through our selfish deeds without considering the impacts on people and creation.

Help us fulfil Jesus’ call to love our neighbours and take action to look out for one another. We remember the people on the frontline of plastic pollution. We pray to you, Lord, that you protect them from the diseases and flooding that come with plastic pollution and that they may find comfort in you.

We pray that world leaders would act on plastic pollution, coming together to agree on an ambitious and binding plastics treaty. Give wisdom and soft hearts to those involved in the negotiations.

We pray for each of the 20 million waste pickers around the world who do vital work. They collect plastics for recycling and yet are often overlooked and underpaid. Let their voices be listened to at the UN treaty negotiations and their human rights and livelihoods protected.

Oh, God, help us not to throw this opportunity away.

We pray for the global church, for all the communities and people affected by plastic pollution, that you may keep them close to you. Help us to restore and care for this beautiful earth you blessed us with. Amen!




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