Coming just a week after a whale died near Thailand and was found to have 17 pounds of plastic in its stomach, this year’s World Environment Day - which is today - has a timely theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

Begun by the United Nations (UN) in 1974 as way to raise awareness of the need to protect the environment, World Environment Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is observed in more than 100 countries.

The U.N. notes that we’re at a stage where, “through the rapid acceleration of science and technology, humans have acquired the power to transform their environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented scale." Some of that transformation, unfortunately, has resulted in the destruction of habitats and wildlife and danger to human health.

“Beat Plastic Pollution”

Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. The U.N. says this year’s theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” is “a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. The theme invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health. While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences.”

U.N. Secretary-General, António Guterres reinforced that message: "On World Environment Day, the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world."

Learn more about this year's theme.

Individuals, companies and organizations are urged to take concrete action to Beat Plastic Pollution. (Click here to register your #BeatPlasticPollution activity.)

"A major problem"

This year’s host country is India, where delegates and policymakers will gather at the Vigyan Bhavan convention centre in Delhi for a five-day event featuring exhibitions and high-level discussions about the various facets of plastic and the need for sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics.

“The problem lies with the way we consume and dispose of plastic,” said Shri Raghavendra Rao from India’s Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. “In India today, 45% of plastics produced are single-use. That is a major problem."