Vatican goes green, amps up recycling efforts

By Hannah Brockhaus

A year after Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’, the Vatican has stepped up its efforts in the recycling game by creating a new central waste collection point within Vatican City.

Announced Nov. 14 by the State Governorate of Vatican City Events Coordination, the new system builds on recycling practices already in place.

With the implementation of the new, more organized system, the leaders of the Vatican’s State Governorate said they hope that the small state “can in some way become a good example of a ‘green’ and non-polluting state.”

For many years now the Vatican has encouraged recycling and dispensed different colored bins throughout the Vatican for sorting and recycling waste appropriately, but this marks the first time there is one central collection area.

In addition to the usual recyclable categories such as paper, plastic and organic material, there will also be areas for larger construction-type waste, such as metal, and for special hazardous and non-hazardous waste, such as electronic equipment and certain liquids.

There will also be an assigned operator at the location in order to provide documentation and to ensure that the waste is deposited appropriately.

Although recycling has been going on at the Vatican for some time now, the communique explained that Laudato si’ “contributed significantly” to the acceleration of the implementation of the new system.

The new system will help everyone in Vatican City to recycle in a more organized and punctual way, the communique stated. At the start of its implementation, users were informed both how to follow the system well and on the importance of separating the different types of materials.

“Care for our common home” has been a popular topic during Pope Francis’ pontificate, where he frequently places issues such as pollution within the context of how harm to the environment also ultimately harms people.

In Laudato si’ he wrote about how pollution can be linked to a “throwaway culture,” which disregards not only the value of things, but also the value and dignity of persons.

“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity,” he wrote in the encyclical. “So we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration, current models of development and the throwaway culture.”

In his Sept. 1 message for the World Day of Care for Creation, the Pope encouraged Christians to make an examination of conscience, evaluating the ways they have contributed to “the disfigurement and destruction of creation,” given that “we all generate small ecological damage.”

After making a sincere examination of conscience, “we can confess our sins against the Creator, against creation, and against our brothers and sisters,” he said, explaining that we confess sins against the environment because “we are penitent and desire to change.”

The grace received from confession must then be put into action with concrete ways of thinking and acting that are more respectful of creation, he said, suggesting the reduction of water use, recycling, carpooling, turning off unused lights and limiting the amount of food cooked to only what will be consumed as ideas with which to start.

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