Vendor Naresh Lutchman has his hands full as customers try to capitalise on his $10.00 avocado specials on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, in Janruary.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), through the Consumer Affairs Division (CAD), is commemorating World Consumer Rights Day 2021 today as it seeks to tackle plastic pollution and encourage responsible environmental behaviour through, what it calls, small lifestyle adjustments in its ongoing consumer outreach and education initiatives.

In a statement issued to mark the occasion, Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said this year’s theme is a continuation of last year’s theme which focused on the Sustainable Consumer.

The minister said the way customers consume, coupled with waste disposal habits, directly impacts the environment.

She added more recently, there has been an increase in the demand for single-use plastics in the health and food and beverage sectors.

The minister explained that, “Plastic waste has grown exponentially over the last two to three decades, accumulating in landfills, watercourses and oceans; the effects of which can be seen by increased flooding, endangered marine life (almost 50 per cent of fish species contain microplastics) and other negative economic and social impacts. The United Nations (UN) notes that 70-85 per cent of marine litter in the Caribbean Sea comes from land, and most of it consists of plastics which is one of three priority pollutants for the wider Caribbean region.”

According to the minister , as T&T works towards becoming a more sustainable nation, “it is imperative that we evolve into a sustainable circular economy. This type of economy involves designing and promoting products that last, which can be reused, repaired and re manufactured; the impact of which could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the supply of raw materials, increasing import substitution and competitiveness, stimulating innovation and boosting economic growth.”

The ministry’s Consumer Affairs Division (CAD) she said advocates the need for sustainable consumption and highlights the importance of the reduction of single-use plastic products and proper waste disposal.

Minister Gopee-Scoon added that a sustainable consumer has a personal responsibility to commit to honouring the conservation cornerstones known as the three R’s of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It is critical to understand that every choice made as a consumer is very important to the health of the environment.

According to the minister’s statement, sustainable consumers are also cognizant of how they shop. As such it has advised consumers to engage in bulk buying and opt for purchasing durables (rechargeable, repairable or reusable items) instead of disposables. This, the minister said, helps to control overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived items.

She has also praised various organisations, various supermarkets and other establishments that have been encouraging the use of reusable and more eco-friendly packaging, saying this type of action deserves consumer support as the country continues to tackle plastic use.

Meanwhile, Gopee-Scoon said the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), through its iCare project, has been facilitating the household separation of waste and the collection of recyclables.

In addition, the ministry has partnered with SWMCOL in its Public Sector Recycling Programme (PSRP).

This, she explained, is a waste reduction and recycling initiative which provides ministries with an opportunity to encourage sustainable environmental practices and promote recycling in the workplaces.

The minister has encouraged businesses and other organisations to get involved and has issued an appeal to the business community, to incorporate sustainability practices throughout business operations and implement proper disposal practices.