Celebrate 'Plastover' by Giving up Single-Use Plastic For Passover

A campaign by Reboot wants to kick off an exodus from superfluous waste.

Passover family dinner
A family celebrates Passover dinner.

Getty Images/Sam Feinsilver

For thousands of years, Jewish people have given up leavened bread (chametz) for Passover. This eight-day commemoration is meant to recall their ancestors' journey out of slavery in Egypt to freedom. This year, however, the arts and culture non-profit Reboot is calling on people to give up single-use plastic. The goal, it says, is "to add a contemporary and meaningful action to the holiday and to push for industry-wide change," hence the name Plastover.

The idea for a temporary plastic purge came from Reboot member Jonathan Bines and his family. Bines is a comedian and staff writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! who has also worked to support the Juliana Youth Climate Lawsuit, which argued on behalf of 50,000 young people that their right to a climate capable of sustaining life is guaranteed by the United States Constitution. 

While the Bines family struggled to find modern-day relevance in the leavened bread sacrifice, their 12-year-old son suggested plastic as a contemporary alternative. No food wrappers, takeout containers, disposable coffee cups, etc. would be allowed into the home for the eight days; no new plastic waste would be generated. This would be "immediately beneficial to the planet, raise awareness about a critically important issue, and be genuinely challenging and create a mindfulness about our own consumption for a lasting change in behavior and impact." 

When asked if it's common for Jews to give up things other than leavened bread for Passover, Reboot spokesperson Tanya Schevitz told Treehugger that that's not necessarily the case. 

"But Passover's power is in its use of symbols to evoke meanings and those symbols have evolved over the centuries. The most recent symbol is that of the orange that people added to the Seder plate to remind them of the historic marginalization of women and LGBTQ+ folks. Reboot's strength is in its commitment to expanding ancient practices to infuse them with contemporary meaning." 

Eight days does not create immediate lasting change, but it can be enough to open people's eyes to a new way of doing things and inspire them to continue avoiding plastic whenever possible. Reboot has created a series of resources for households, Hebrew schools, and synagogues to use throughout Passover, which runs from March 27 to April 4 this year.

Reboot is calling on participants to reimagine the 10 Plagues of Egypt as the 10 Plagues of Plastic. As shown in the graphic below, each plague of plastic is based on the theme of the original plagues, i.e. "the waters of the Nile turning to blood becomes the oceans turning to garbage", and offers suggestions for how people can take action during Plastover.

10 Plagues of Plastic
The 10 Plagues of Plastic.

Reboot

Accompanying the project is an art installation by Reboot member and artist Olivia Guterson at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, titled At Our Table. This piece is "a reimagining of a Passover table constructed from locally-sourced, discarded, single-use plastics, illuminating the concept of convenience, throwaway culture, and environmental responsibility during a holiday centered on the joy and the sacrifices required to find liberation."

Reboot is calling on political leaders to enforce tighter plastic-reduction policies. As Schevitz said, 

"We know that it will be difficult – impossible really – for individuals to eliminate single-use plastic on their own. We hope to create a mindfulness about personal consumption for a lasting change in behavior and to inspire people to push for industry-wide change and corporate accountability to reduce plastic waste. We know that saving the world from plastic will require more than just eliminating single-use plastic for a week and a day."

But Jewish people around the world can draw on history for inspiration. They have done hard things before and can do them again. "When the Jews escaped from Egypt they still had to wander the desert for 40 years before they arrived in the promised land," Reboot explained. "We have a long journey ahead of us as well, but pushing now for corporate accountability will help us use Passover to spark sustained climate intervention. An Exodus of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Learn more here.