On Monday, June 5th, World Environment Day was observed. This significant international day, recognized by the United Nations, aimed to celebrate environmental action and highlight the collective influence of governments, businesses, and individuals in fostering a more sustainable world.
The 50th edition of World Environment Day centered around finding solutions to combat plastic pollution through the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign. This global initiative not only highlighted inspiring and innovative endeavors worldwide to reduce the use of unnecessary plastic items, particularly single-use plastics, but also showcased the adoption of more sustainable and circular business models. The timing of yesterday’s World Environment Day was especially critical, coinciding with ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive global agreement on plastic pollution.
In Brussels, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Brussels Office and its partner organizations took part in various activities to commemorate this important day.
Brussels public transport company promotes circularity
All day, STIB-MIVB, the public transport company of Brussels, displayed World Environment Day-related messaging in its metro stations. Besides encouraging people to make use of public transport to get around the city, STIB-MIVB also used the opportunity to communicate around its own efforts to promote circularity and reduce plastic pollution, through recycling and creating upcycled products such as construction site canvas turned into shopping bags.
Brussels Canal clean up with Canal It Up
In the afternoon, a canal clean-up was organized by the local Brussels-based organization Canal It Up, in collaboration with UNEP and UNRIC. Representatives from several UN agencies joined by officials from the European Commission and the City of Brussels fished for waste from their kayaks and brought it to shore to sort it in view of its reuse and recycling.
Event on “Solutions to Plastic Pollution” at the City Hall of Brussels
Later in the evening, World Environment Day was celebrated at an event hosted by the City of Brussels in its historic City Hall on the Grand-Place. This well-attended event, organized by UNEP in collaboration with UNRIC, brought together high-level representatives from the UN, EU institutions, national, regional, and local authorities in Brussels. Their aim was to reflect on the theme and share respective views and experiences on addressing plastic pollution at various levels: local, regional, national, and global.
The distinguished lineup of speakers included a passionate youth representative and a local social enterprise called L’Ouvroir. The enterprise showcased its own circular and innovative solution to combat plastic pollution, giving plastic waste a second life.
Adding to the event’s ambiance, a small exhibition featured thought-provoking works by students from the British School of Brussels, along with other artifacts that visually conveyed the issue of plastic pollution and offered potential solutions. This exhibition was accessible for all participants to explore and appreciate.
Illumination of the City Hall in green and visit of the Smurfs
At sunset, the City Hall of Brussels was beautifully illuminated in green, paying tribute to World Environment Day. Among the esteemed guests attending the evening event was Mr. Benoit Hellings, the Alderman of climate and sport, who served as the main host.
Accompanied by the beloved Smurfs, they gathered on the Grand-Place to witness the iconic building radiate in vibrant green, symbolizing the conclusion of World Environment Day 2023 in Belgium. Notably, the Smurfs assumed the role of ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and actively promoted good habits to prevent waste from entering waterways, lending their support to the Brussels campaign ‘Here begins the sea’ (‘Ici commence la mer’).
During this time, anyone visiting the Grand-Place of Brussels had the opportunity to witness the captivating green illumination. As a delightful addition, attendees were welcome to capture memorable moments with Smurfette, who made a special appearance between 9:30 and 9:45 PM.
How can you #BeatPlasticPollution?
Plastic pollution is preventable. Taking action today across all sectors of society can halt and reverse it. It is crucial to recognize that individual and community actions underpin the systemic change required to transition to a less plastic-dependent economy.
You can still participate in the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign by using the hashtag in your social media posts and by accessing this practical guide which provides useful tips on how we can all be part of the global movement to solve the plastic pollution crisis.
Useful links :
- Check out our World Environment Day Flickr album
- World Environment Day 2023 campaign website
- Video message of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
- Video message from Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP
- UNEP report: Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy