Ill with COVID-19, I was sickened by our use of plastic

July 2, 2021

Photo: EdinburghGreens

By Marco Corona
Laudato Si’ Animator, Pope John XXIII Community Association (Italy)

During my recent stint in the hospital first and then in a hotel for COVID-19 patients, I was able to see firsthand our excessive use of disposable plastic.

Marco Corona

I was tempted to put off contacting the appropriate officials and meeting with others to work for change. Surely this could wait.

But I’m so glad I didn’t as we’re already working on how we can reduce the amount of plastic in our community and better care for our common home.

Today is International Plastic Bag Free Day, and I invite you to join me in this journey to rid our world of plastic waste, one community at a time.

Since my first day of hospitalization for COVID-19, I could not help but notice the large amount of plastic, inside of which there was food. I really felt polluted by that sad sight, which further compromised my little desire to eat due to COVID-19.

This unfortunately repeated for a week, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, multiplying, for each patient, student, or worker.

Think about how much garbage ends up in the sea, on the beaches, and in every corner of our environments? As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” (LS 21).

But what I have experienced is this: you’re in the hospital worried and tired, and your attention is focused on getting well, so you survive, waiting for better times yet determined to deal with the problem together with others.

Discharged and sent to a COVID-19 hotel, where I waited to test negative for the virus, with deep disappointment I saw the same things repeat themselves. Again, I felt polluted and I recognized my harm as a polluter of our common home that I love so much.

And to think that this is only a small part, if we think of all the disposable medical devices, masks, containers of alcoholic gel, etc. It can be overwhelming, I know, but as people of faith, we know that things can change (LS 13), and it’s our responsibility to take action.

Thanks to God, I felt supported in my prayers and messages by my friends from the Italian Laudato Si’ Circles, and I shared with the other Laudato Si’ Animators my situation as a pandemic sufferer first, and then as someone coming to grips with the incredible amount of plastic that dominates our daily lives.

From there, I contacted the hotel management first and then the heads of the chaplaincies of the Sassari hospitals.

In the first case, I proposed a change, saying that I was willing to bear the costs, as long as the meals were served in another way, that is, in different types of biodegradable containers.

The kind and quick response came immediately in which they shared my understanding, but also the impossibility of being able to satisfy my request because these choices were imposed by health regulations.

To the chaplaincies, however, I wrote an email proposing a meeting where, expressing my discomfort, we could agree on a common action that would go in the direction desired by Laudato Si’ as a member of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

They shared with me their interest to act and to find solutions to the plastic problem. We will meet soon to better understand how we can collaborate.

I was impressed by what came out of my small participation, the proposals to act together with the other Laudato Si’ Circles and to remove the causes that lead to behaviors that are destructive.

We sincerely hope that, together, we can push for change and, with other groups, associations, and ecclesial institutions, find a new way forward.

I am happy that God opened my eyes during my own journey as a sick person and for your help, both in prayer and in action. Now with a greater awareness, I can give my complete service to our common home!