Thursday, 15 February 2018

British Plastics Federation Calls for a Church of England-Free Lent

No, they don't.  Obviously. Although who knew the British Plastics Federation exists? But who couldn't love a website that has a "Polymer Zone" and a "Plastipedia"? Although both sound like the kind of places priests swear blind they accidentally wandered into during a day out in London.

But today I am interested in the Church of England's advice on a "Plastic Free Lent" - expressed as a Lent Calendar. Let's all go fisking shall we?

It's not that reducing plastic is a bad idea. Microbeads - dreadful things. Plastic bag charges - brilliant. But.

"Carry your own non-plastic cutlery" - that's what Young Keith was doing that time he got arrested in Hackney. Saying you're just off to a bring and share doesn't cut it when you've a quiche knife in your "bag for life", I can tell you.

 "Choose milk in returnable glass bottles Many areas have local dairies that provides milk in
returnable glass bottles rather than plastic or plastic coated cardboard." Tell you what would be handy - telling us which areas. Which local dairies are these? I presume that the Church of England is thinking of those local dairies in the 1970s.

"Request takeaways use your container instead of their disposable one." - Because there's nothing the local Chinese needs on a busy Saturday night more than some environment-saving vicar turning up with their family heirloom Lazy Susan and requesting that the Sweet and Sour Chicken, Satay Pork, Crispy Beef and Vegan Tofu be kept strictly separate.

"Use a bamboo toothbrush or a toothbrush with recyclable heads and try to find dental floss that doesn’t come in plastic packaging." A bamboo toothbrush can be found online for £1.44. For 5p more you can get a four-pack from Superdrug.  Apparently there's a rumour the Church of England is Middle Class. Now I'm thinking we need to check Anglican's teeth, as they save up for the next toothbrush.

"Look around your kitchen and see what plastics you can replace Use a dish brush with a wooden handle and compostable bristles." Now I'm sorry. First up - what the hell is a dish brush? What Beatrix Potter story was one of those last used in? And more importantly - if you look around your kitchen and there are plastics there, bloody use them as long as you possibly can. I'm not sure what Ritual of Disposing of Perfectly Good Plastic Tools the good old C of E is planning to publish, but you can be sure that it will be less environmentally friendly than keeping the perfectly good things you already own until they're worn out.

"Use a blender made of glass If you find yourself needing to purchase a new blender in the future, try and go for a glass alternative if possible."  - See, this is where the whole "Calendar" concept falls apart. It's odd enough setting aside the 5th of March as the date to throw away all your plastic cooking implements. But this is the advice for the 7th.  What are the chances that your (plastic) blender will give up the ghost on that specific day? And what are the chances that, if it doesn't, you will remember when if finally does in 4 years or whatever? And - the killer this - what happens if on the 5th of March when you looked around your kitchen to dispose of all plastic items, you saw the plastic blender then and replaced it with a wooden dish brush? What good is the advice on the 7th March then, eh?

"Do you use disposable cups at church? Can you encourage people to bring their own mug?" - Well no.  But then, if you've ever purchased Woodsware Beryl, it's indestructible anyway.

"Do you have old clothes and shoes that you never wear because they don’t fit or are out
of style? Take them to a tailor or cobbler for alteration."  Tell you what, the bloke in Timpson nearly died laughing, before he threw me out. But the good news is, I found a cobbler. Unfortunately, it was in Thomas Hardy's novel, "Under the Greenwood Tree". 

"Buy second-hand plastic-free furniture" -  better still, buy second-hand plastic furniture. That way it won't go in landfill.

"Avoid plastic pens and giveaways Try using a refillable fountain pen or pencils." - Or best of all, a quill. Quills are natural, compostable and easily obtained by grabbing the backside of a passing goose or other poultry.  

"Avoid the Mini bar snacks and drinks Not only incredibly expensive but they all come in plastic packages or bottles. Even if you can’t avoid plastic entirely, you can resist single serving sizes." Too right. They're terribly unsatisfying. Buy the full-size. But even then, thanks to shrinkflation, you may need two.

"Put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox This will reduce the number of letters with plastic windows. It will also reduce your paper waste."   It will also put the poor soul delivering it out of a job. But don't worry because they'll have company in the dole queue...

"Try and cook as much as possible from scratch and take your own sandwiches and snacks when you go out." - Which if nothing else is a good way of putting the people at the Chinese out of business when they refuse to serve your take away onto the Beryl plates you brought along to pick up your takeaway.

" Don’t buy new CDs and DVDs Stream or download music, shows, and films online or borrow them from the library or friends."  They don't actually mention that if you want the music permanently in these circumstances, the trick is to rip the disks you borrowed off your mates. But I'm sure the C of E won't be too upset. After all, why worry about putting musicians and actors out of work? It'll give the people from the takeaway and the junk-mail deliverer somebody to talk to while they're waiting to sign on.

So the good news is that the advice doesn't give the impression that the Church of England is a bunch of middle-class do-gooders that live in a different century. Oh, wait. Sorry I mean - it does, doesn't it?

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.


  1. Yes, hypocrisy may cause vomiting ...

  2. All of this is nonsense. It's the packaging that causes most plastic waste along with those who manufacture goods with plastic beads on them.

    If manufacturers and those who use this stuff were given a sharp kick up the posterior we might actually achieve something. Legislate for it (instead of Brexit) and knock a few heads together and get the Bishops to stop using plastic heads on the Crooks.

    1. That's a radical claim Ern. Do you have proof that bishops have plastic crooks?

  3. A former CEO of the Environment Agency made herself unpopular by leaving excess packaging at the supermarket till.

    1. Very sensible. But not very C of E. I'm sure Cranmer would have been prepared to do it.


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