I was skimming through the various blogs I follow when I came across this:

Kol Ra’ash Gadol: Plastic water bottles

KRG seems decidedly unconvinced that limiting our use of plastic disposables is a worthwhile idea. While we can argue about the various environmental merits of the case (which I did, on his blog) what about the Jewish perspective? Rabbi Brant Rosen writes about Bal Tashcit on Radical Torah, indicating that efficiency and conservation are Jewish values, straight from the Torah. He brings the Rambam, who says:

Whoever breaks vessels, or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs a well, or does away with food in a destructive manner violates the negative mitzvah of Bal Tashchit (Hilkhot Melakhim 6:10)

Is there any reason that the words of the Rambam should not apply to disposable goods? I would argue that the standard plastic water bottle of our day is comparably durable to the vessels available at the time of the Rambam. The only thing that makes them ‘disposable’ is the marketing campaign. Anyone see The Gods Must Be Crazy? That glass Coca-Cola bottle had a hundred uses for a people who had no concept of ‘disposable’. Is it in fact forbidden to throw away these and all the various other containers that make their way into our homes?

At my house, we do try to re-use these containers. We save jars and re-use them for storage containers, pickling vessels, and even drinking glasses. My favorite lowball glass is actually the glass cup that yahrtzeit candles come in. Our dish soap dispenser? A bottle of Poland Spring water with the sport top. What we don’t re-use we try to recycle. But we are in the minority. Here then is another Jewish value, and another halachic injunction, that is ignored and even deprecated by the frum community. I’m not suggesting that disposable goods ahve no place in our society, but I’m troubled that we have embraced this part of secular culture with hardly a second look.

Blog Action DayAnd since we’re on the environment, October 15 is Blog Action Day! Got a blog? Why not spend the day uniting with bloggers around the world to talk about just one thing? This year, it’s the environment. Show your support! And go out and tag all your bloggy friends and get them to jump in too. I’m tagging Jspot.org (I’m looking at you, Mik Moore!), Jeremy Rosen, and my various buddies, the mennu method, Meeg, and the newly-constituted Kol Hamevaser – lead the way!

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