Litter can refer to anything from a cigarette butt to a bag of rubbish. All litter is unsightly and makes our local areas look untidy and uncared for. Common things seen as litter include fast food packaging, sweet wrappers, drinks cans, bottles and cigarette butts. Litter can take years to degrade, causing harm to wildlife and habitats. There is even research which shows litter contributes to further crime and that people feel less safe in areas that are littered.
Of course, littering is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, but this is a law that is seldom enforced and is thus not taken seriously by citizens.
Student Attorney Mellisa Sookoo discussed the issue of littering, pollution and the law, for the for the Hugh Wooding Law School’s Human Rights Law Clinic. Mellisa’s article was published in the Law Made Simple column of the Trinidad Guardian newspaper on Monday December 19th, 2016.
This article looks at the laws in place to control pollution caused by littering in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Environmental Management Act Chap 35:05 (EMA) aims to protect the environment and regulate its use, conservation and management. The focus of this law is to safeguard the well-being of natural resources for future generations. Section 2 of the EMA defines pollution as any disturbance in the conditions of the natural environment likely to be harmful to humans and the environment. These disturbances can be caused by:
- The release of any type of substances;
- Disturbances in the form of offensive odors, noise, energy, radiation and vibration.
It includes any disturbances likely to affect the environment at large. One of the major forms of pollution is littering.
Section 2 of the Litter Act Chap 30:05 (the Act) defines litter as any type of material, either solid or liquid not only found in bottles, cans, packaging, foods, animals and human waste, but also materials which the Minister of Health may specify as being harmful. Littering is broken down into the littering of public and private places.
Section 3 of the Act relates to littering in public places. A person guilty of an offence is liable to a fine of four thousand dollars or imprisonment for six months, whereas a business or corporation is liable to a fine of eight thousand dollars.
Under section 4 of the Act a person who litters on another’s premises without permission is liable to a fine of four thousand dollars or imprisonment for six months.
Where a person is convicted a second time he or she is liable to a doubling of the maximum fine imposed for that offence. A daily penalty may be imposed for a continuing offence: sections 5A and 13.
Property owners also have a duty to ensure that their premises are free from dust and refuse likely to cause a nuisance or be harmful to person’s health: section 67 of the Public Health Ordinance Chap 12 No. 4 (1950) (the Ordinance).
Section 6 of the Act authorises the Local Authority to take action by requiring persons responsible to remove the litter and restore the environment to its normal conditions. Along with this, section 68 of the Ordinance provides for a fine to be levied against persons for offensive materials thrown on public streets or places. Further, where businesses improperly dispose of materials, the EMA and local authority can step in to prevent harm to the environment by mandating compliance.
Littering is an offence in Trinidad and Tobago. As a form of pollution, it hampers the health and safety of the environment. Littering can affect marine life, facilitate the improper and unsafe disposal of materials, and even cause blockages of rivers and drains leading to the spread of diseases, flooding and other hazards.
Be responsible. Obey the litter laws.
Students of the Hugh Wooding Law School Human Rights Law Clinic were each given the opportunity to write an article for the “Law Made Simple” column in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper.
These topics ranged from analysis of specific legislation, to general legal concepts. The aim of this exercise was to teach the students how to write about complex legal issues, for the average newspaper reader.
This article was re-published with permission from the Human Rights Law Clinic.