World Environment Day 2023

#BeatPlasticPollution in Bangladesh

Kristina Algas

What is World Environment Day?

World Environment Day, celebrated each year on June 5th, is an international holiday for spreading awareness of the mounting global environmental crisis. The holiday was created by the United Nations in 1973, headlined with the slogan “Only One Earth”. Since 1986, World Environment Day has focused on a new theme and slogan each year to promote a different aspect of environmental conservation.

This year’s World Environment Day marks its 50th anniversary, the theme of which was “#beatplasticpollution”. Plastic pollution is a serious problem across the world; a study by found that single-use plastic consumption quadrupled between 2000 and 2019, while another study found that only 9% of the plastic waste produced globally each year ends up recycled. In fact, the overwhelming majority of plastic waste either ends up in landfills or remains uncollected, littering the land or eventually finding its way to the ocean.

The Bangladesh Plastic Crisis

Image by Maruf Rahman from Pixabay

While plastic pollution is a global problem, single-use plastic usage and waste is especially prevalent in Bangladesh. The country’s thriving plastic industry single-handedly contributes millions of USD to the country every year; in 2017 alone, the plastic industry contributed 2.5k million USD to the domestic Bangladeshi economy.

However, this profit comes at an even steeper cost, as plastic pollution continues to pile up in Bangladesh. Single-plastic use continues to skyrocket as the plastic industry continues to develop unchecked, with no signs of regulation or environmental policies. Moreover, Bangladesh is a coastal nation with a variety of diverse ecosystems; plastic pollution produced in Bangladesh is more likely to find its way to the ocean, or cause direct harm to sensitive regions such as the Sundarbans Reserved Forest. As such, it is all the more important to raise awareness of the effects of single-use plastics in Bangladesh.

BECA’s World Environment Day Celebration

To celebrate World Environment Day, we teamed up with the Bangladesh Ecotourism Conservation Alliance (BECA) to host a celebration at Burirdabor SESDP Model High School. This World Day Environment celebration was aimed at high school students to raise their awareness of environmental conservation and plastic pollution. 

Image provided by Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance

After a series of speeches from various school faculty and organizational heads, both speakers and students alike took an oath to avoid harming the environment and to reduce their usage of single-use plastic products. The World Environment Day festivities included tree planting, a climate change rally, and a community cleanup event where students helped pick up some of the litter and plastic waste around their school. At the celebration’s conclusion, the closing ceremony included a speech about how the students could continue to improve their communities by raising environmental awareness and reducing their plastic usage.

Image provided by Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance

The World Environment Day celebration helped raise the community’s awareness of plastic pollution and the importance of plastic waste management. In 2019, Bangladesh recycled only 36% of the plastic waste it produced in that year alone (estimated at a whopping 825 thousand tonnes). Although much work remains to be done in Bangladesh, educating local youth about the importance of conservation and waste reduction is the first step to enacting meaningful change.

What Can You Do to Help?

Image by Kampus Production from Pexels

Ultimately, plastic pollution is a global issue. It will take an enormous amount of effort from people around the world to enact tangible change; however, there’s no need to wait until the next World Environment Day to act. Here are some simple, easy ways you can reduce plastic waste in your everyday life:

  1. Reuse Plastic Bags: A single plastic bag can remain usable for a very long time, with a maximum life expectancy of up to 1,000 years. Instead of throwing away your “single-use” plastic bags, try saving them for an easy storage solution– or a cheaper alternative to small trash bags!
  2. Reduce Single-Use Plastics: You can reduce plastic waste by skipping out on single-use plastic products, including cups, take-out containers, and plastic-wrapped grocery produce. 
  3. Recycle!: Recycling helps reduce plastic waste by turning used plastic products into clean, usable plastic. When you can, be sure to toss your used plastic in labeled recycling bins (labeled with the “chasing arrows triangle” symbol). Not all plastic is recyclable; make sure whatever you toss in the recycling bin has the appropriate label! 
  4. Support Conservation-Focused Organizations: As a consumer, you have the power to enact change by supporting companies that share your values. Choose to support businesses and organizations that take tangible action to reduce their own environmental impact, but be wary of companies that practice greenwashing.

At Greater Sundarbans Ecotourism Society (GSETS), we are dedicated to helping our destination build a thriving and sustainable tourism industry to reduce the ecological impact of the ever-growing tourism industry. Follow us on Facebook to get event announcements and join us for our next trash pick up or #beatplasticpollution event.  

About the Author

Kristina Algas

Kristina Algas is a 2023 graduate of UC Santa Barbara with a BA in Communications. She participated in the Summer 2023 internship at Solimar International, assisting the USAID Ecotourism Activity project team develop website and social media content, blog articles, and other technical writing to support Sustainable Tourism Development in the Greater Sundarbans region of Bangladesh.