World Environment Day is on June 5th. This year the emphasis is on combating plastic waste. Photo shows two people cleaning up trash along a beach.

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"Only One Earth". That was the thematic message launched 50 years ago when the United Nations declared June 5th forevermore as World Environment Day. Created to shine a light on the most pressing pollution problems of the era, this year's mission is based on eliminating plastic waste.

“Only One Earth.” That was the thematic message launched 50 years ago when the United Nations declared June 5th forevermore as World Environment Day. Created to shine a light on the most pressing pollution problems of the era, this year’s mission is based on eliminating plastic waste.

Since its inception in 1974, World Environment Day has grown into a global movement, with millions of people joining together to take action on various environmental issues, including air, water, and soil preservation. This year, the country hosting the event is the Republic of Cte d’Ivoire in West Africa, in partnership with the Netherlands.

Today we’re going to take a quick glance back at the history of World Environment Day, the milestones achieved, challenges to plastic elimination still looming on the horizon, and how you can get involved come June 5th.

The History Of World Environment Day:

World Environment Day was established in 1972 by the United Nations at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment lasting from June 5th to June 16th. The following year, the first World Environment Day was held with the theme “Only One Earth.” The UN body that runs and manages the event each year is the UN Environment Programme.

Some of the themes and milestones over the years include:

World Environment Day 2023

See the World Environment Day History page for a complete timeline of themes and milestones achieved since 1972.

The World Environment Day 2023 theme is #beatplasticpollution, especially the plastic waste in oceans. There will be forums, presentations, live events, and more on June 5th and the following week. For live updates, including free events, webinars, global content, and more, head over to the World Environment Day page here.

Why Focus On Plastic Pollution?

The facts surrounding plastic pollution are genuinely alarming! Over 440 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year. Only 10% of it is ever recycled. Even more concerning, an estimated 20 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our oceans, lakes, and rivers. Then we drink it.

Plastic is an affordable and extremely flexible material. Many convenient products would not be available today, or at least not at the price today, without it. The problem is that plastics do not break down; they just break apart into tiny microplastics. In fact, plastic takes an incredible 1,000 years to break down fully. Meanwhile, it ends up everywhere – in the water, the animals, the soil, ice caps, our blood, landfills, everywhere.

This is why this year’s theme, and previous years, is focused on ending plastic pollution. Some successful ways to reduce plastic waste include plastic bag bans, tax incentives, recycling programs, and education programs.

Challenges to Plastic Waste Reduction?

Despite the progress made in recent years, plastic pollution reduction remains one of our most significant environmental challenges. One major challenge is the need for effective plastic waste management systems in many parts of the world, which leads to plastic waste ending up in oceans and landfills. Governments must take a leading role in better managing waste, incentivizing recycling, starting programs like plastic bag recycling, and considering bans on certain plastic items.

Another challenge is the sheer amount of plastic waste generated, with millions of tons of plastic produced each year. Additionally, single-use plastics, such as straws and plastic water bottles, continue to be widely used, contributing to the growing problem. Businesses must reimagine package design and focus on more sustainable product lifecycles. There must be a joint effort to change the single-use model to a lifecycle model where the amount of plastic created is first reduced, adequately disposed of, and then recycled.

Finally, there is the issue of consumer awareness and behavior change, as many individuals still prioritize convenient and cheap products over sustainability. Individuals must focus on reducing, reusing, recycling, and choosing products that don’t end up in the ocean. Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort from governments, businesses, and individuals, with innovative solutions and a focus on education and awareness of the harmful effects of plastic waste.

What Is Happening In The Republic of Cote d’Ivoire?

Cote d’Ivoire is setting an example in the fight against plastic pollution. It has taken a bold step since 2014 by prohibiting the use of plastic bags and promoting the adoption of reusable packaging. Additionally, Abidjan, the country’s biggest city, has become a magnet for eco-friendly start-ups. Here is what Jean-Luc Assi, Cote d'Ivoire's Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development had to say:

“The scourge of plastic pollution is a visible threat that impacts every community. And “We are proud to champion diverse treatments for the plastic pandemic.”

The Dutch government will support this year’s World Environment Day. Showcasing how much we can accomplish ecologically when we work together. The Netherlands is known for taking strong action regarding plastic throughout its lifecycle. It is also part of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and the Global Partnership on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter, making the Netherlands a logical partner.

How Can I Get Involved Locally For World Environment Day 2023?

Besides viewing all the live online presentations and events, there are many ways you can celebrate World Environment Day 2023 wherever you call home.

Some practical steps Americans can take include supporting local environmental organizations and initiatives, organizing or participating in community clean-up events, reducing plastic waste by carrying reusable bags and bottles and promoting sustainable living practices such as reducing energy consumption and conserving water. Additionally, individuals can use social media platforms to spread awareness about environmental challenges and encourage others to take action.

By taking these essential steps, Americans can positively impact the environment and contribute to the global movement toward a healthier, greener future. Check out the official World Environment Day 2023 guide here for even more ways to get involved.

World Environment Day Conclusion

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day on June 5th, it is essential to reflect on the progress made and the challenges that lie ahead. The history of this global movement reveals a dedicated effort to address environmental issues, with this year’s focus on beating plastic pollution.

While countries like the Republic of Cte d’Ivoire are taking the lead in combating plastic waste, much work still needs to be done. Governments, businesses, and individuals must come together to develop effective plastic waste management systems, reduce plastic production, and prioritize sustainable practices. By raising awareness, embracing innovative solutions, and committing to a shared sustainable vision, we can ensure that future generations inherit a clean and abundant Earth. This World Environment Day 2023, let’s all reaffirm our commitment to protecting our one and only Earth. And let’s get plastic bottles, straws, and all the other single-use plastics out of our oceans for good!

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