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World Environment Day is important, however consistency is key

World Environment Day was two weeks ago. Although the day is an opportunity to raise vital awareness of environmental issues, taking action should not be restricted to this one day of global reflection. Leanne Elliot explores the history of World Environment Day, and the environmental action happening in our community today. 

It has been 51 years since the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) dedicated June 5 as World Environment Day, with this year’s theme being #BeatPlasticPollution.

Each year millions of people use World Environment Day to raise awareness and call for action on various pressing environmental issues. The program has achieved many notable milestones along the way.

UNEP has played a leading role in environmental awareness, reform and action, with backing from over 190 Member States and stakeholders. UNEP has also provided platforms and systems which have seen the development, ratification and adoption of global summits, conferences, panels and agreements, including the Montevideo Environmental Law Programme, the Montreal Protocol, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Climate Action Summit.

What did World Environment Day 2023 look like in Newcastle?

However, while World Environment Day is a critical opportunity to raise awareness of environmental issues and sustainable behaviour, it is well-understood that not enough is being done to combat environmental destruction.

This is a concept grass-roots climate action group Rising Tide is all-too aware of. On the dawn of World Environment Day, Rising Tide held a vigil alongside Kooragang coal line. Religious leaders, people of faith and community members gathered to commemorate the current and future victims of climate change.

The vigil followed an open letter to coal company chief executives calling for a stoppage of coal movements for World Environment Day. Predictably, coal transportation in Newcastle continued as usual, promoting the vigil. The group symbolically displayed 226 pairs of shoes and observed 226 seconds of silence, to honour the projected climate related deaths caused by the daily emissions produced by Newcastle Coal Port.

“Peer reviewed science has estimated that for every 400,000 tonnes of coal burnt, 226 people will lose their lives this century due to the climate impacts of these emissions, such as extreme weather, flooding and famine.” Rising Tide stated in a post made to Facebook recapping the event.

Rising Tide members, religious leaders and members of the community gather on the dawn of World Environment Day, holding candles in the dark.

Rising Tide members, religious leaders and members of the community gather on the dawn of World Environment Day.

This year’s focus

This year’s World Environment Day once again has plastic is in the crosshairs, with particular attention being paid to single use plastic products. Plastic products and micro-plastics are increasingly contaminating our soil, water, air, flora, fauna and even the human body.

While plastic bags, straws and utensils have are gradually being replaced by more sustainable options, the damage which plastic is causing to our environment will take generations to rectify.

“The report proposes a systems change to address the causes of plastic pollution, combining reducing problematic and unnecessary plastic use with a market transformation towards circularity in plastics. This can be achieved by accelerating three key shifts – reuse, recycle, and reorient and diversify – and actions to deal with the legacy of plastic pollution.” – Turning off the Tap report, 2023.

This is where global communication and commitment will be vital if we are to win the “war on plastic”.

In May this year, UNEP released the Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy report and approach, which examines potential economic and business models aimed at addressing the “plastics economy”. The report offers direction for governments and businesses, with the aim of ending plastic pollution by 2040 by employing a “reuse, recycle, reorient and diversify” philosophy and approach.

With UNEP reporting more than 430 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year, it seems ending plastic pollution by 2040 is going to take a miracle. After all, there are so many different types of plastic, which means plastic is everywhere. It is in our:

  • personal care products and clothing
  • household appliances and furniture
  • vehicles
  • cooking utensils and whitegoods
  • computers, televisions and phones
  • sporting and outdoor goods
  • lining cans and jar lids, and
  • even in our chewing gum.

But focusing on single use and micro-plastics is definitely a good place to start. Let us know in the comments what your doing to reduce your plastic footprint.

Video by Leanne Elliot, Yak Writer.
Music by Music: kozyie | Track: hat-films-improv-remix | Source:


  • World Environment Day website.
  • World Environment Day cards and videos on Trello.
  • Get solutions in the Beat Plastic Pollution Practical Guide here.
  • Our planet is choking on plastic. It’s time for change – Find out how.
  • How can the world beat plastic pollution – video.
  • Plastic Waste Facts – Counters.
  • Clean Seas: turn the tide on plastic (How to become a Clean Seas Country) ebook.

Feature Image by Leonid Danilov, via Pexels

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