Message by President Ramkalawan on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day

14 March 2021 | State House

Every year on the 15th March, the world celebrates World Consumer Rights Day. As is customary for each year, a theme is adopted that reflects the concerns that exist vis-à-vis consumption patterns of consumers worldwide to ensure fairness and safety in the market place. This year’s theme, “Tackling Plastic Pollution” follows on from last year’s theme which was ‘The Sustainable Consumer’.

Undeniably, all will agree that single-use plastic continues to be a threat to our ecosystem, but predominantly to our oceans. Statistics show that 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Annually, 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals & turtles are destroyed because of marine plastic. In fact, 50% of all plastic produced yearly are single-use plastic. These figures should be of concern to all of us.

But what is the status in our own country when it comes to plastic pollution? A major coastline clean-up on our outer islands in 2019 generated 10 tons of waste. Quite a good majority of this waste was plastic in various forms. A lot of our household consumption ends up as plastic waste that is dumped in the environment after use, creating pressure on the Government to collect, dispose and manage this waste to ensure a clean environment for the consumers. The Government has been taking some important steps such as the ban on single use plastic bags as of 1st July 2017 and more recently a ban on balloons which will be effective as of 1st April 2021 to address plastic pollution. There is still room for more emphasis locally on recycling and re-using these plastic wastes. 

Creating awareness in tackling plastic pollution ranks high on the Fair-Trading Commission’s agenda. However, the battle against plastic pollution is not one that can be fought only by the Commission, consumer bodies, consumers or the Government only. Suppliers alike, are called upon to opt for more environmentally friendly and safe products. Worldwide, certain suppliers are changing their production patterns to accommodate environmentally sustainable consumption. This is heavily influenced by the shifting consumption patterns and shows what influence each one of us can have in helping to change bad habits.

Advocacy and education are also valuable tools when providing information to consumers so that they make right and informed choices when it comes to their consumption. As such, the campaign against plastic pollution which is gaining much momentum internationally is one that is worth promoting. Despite not having a one size fits all in terms of tackling plastic pollution, the Consumer International Organisation has put together a 7 Rs model for waste management which includes replace, rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and repair.  In line with the latter and this year’s theme, I am encouraging the Fair Trading Commission and other consumer organisations to engage with the public so that everyone becomes aware of the challenges and therefore become active participants in tackling the negative effects of plastic pollution.

Let us all become committed in tackling plastic pollution for a better, safer and fairer tomorrow for ourselves and our future generations.

Happy Consumers Day.

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