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To achieve sound management of chemicals and waste, essential to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3 on healthy people, UNEP focuses on three areas:

Supporting countries to build the institutional capacity and policies to manage chemicals and waste soundly.

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Assisting countries, including major groups and stakeholders, to implement sound chemicals management and the related Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

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Assisting countries, including major groups and stakeholders, to implement sound waste management and the related MEAs.

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IN PICTURES

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The enabling environment

Over the last two years, 17 countries adopted policies promoting sound management of chemicals and waste, exceeding UNEP’s target for December 2015...

The enabling environment

Over the last two years, 17 countries adopted policies promoting sound management of chemicals and waste, exceeding UNEP’s target for December 2015. This increase stemmed from countries that ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury. This convention, which governments adopted to tackle global emissions of the toxic element in 2013, with assistance from UNEP, now has 128 signatories and 20 Parties, up from 94 signatory countries and only one Party in 2013.

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The Global Mercury Partnership – Supporting implementation of the Minamata Convention

Ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is facilitated by UNEP’s Global Mercury Partnership...

The Global Mercury Partnership – Supporting implementation of the Minamata Convention

Ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is facilitated by UNEP’s Global Mercury Partnership – an alliance that enables countries to address the adverse effects of mercury. By December 2015, 50 countries were carrying out initial assessments for the convention.

The Global Mercury Partnership and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) are important vehicles to support countries to create the appropriate enabling environment for action. They facilitate wide-ranging action to achieve results with direct benefits to human health and the environment. A voluntary trust fund, known as the Special Programme on institutional capacity strengthening – designed to support nations on SAICM and the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm (BRS) and Minamata conventions – was adopted at the first United Nations Environment Assembly in June 2014.

The Secretariat of the Special Programme is now fully operational with €11 million from the European Union, $180,000 from Sweden, €200,000 from Finland and $750,000 from the United States of America.

In addition, 2015 was a key year for the UNEP-hosted Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, under which nations have prompted the healing of the ozone layer by almost completely phasing out Ozone-Depleting Substances. The 197 parties agreed to work on an amendment to the Protocol to control hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a replacement in cooling systems that does not damage the ozone layer but may eventually act as a climate warming gas.

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)

SAICM, for which UNEP provides the Secretariat, promotes chemical safety around the world. All projects funded by SAICM’s Quick Start Programme (QSP) Trust Fund contribute to the achievement of the 2020 goal of sound chemicals management. A recent evaluation found the programme had met, and in many cases exceeded, its objective of establishing enabling environments for sound management of chemicals at the national level.

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management – Quick start programmes since 2006

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management
The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management
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Chemicals

UNEP aims to increase the number of governments, businesses and industries, and civil society organizations addressing priority chemical issues using its risk assessment and management tools...

Chemicals

UNEP aims to increase the number of governments, businesses and industries, and civil society organizations addressing priority chemical issues using its risk assessment and management tools. Over the last two years, 14 governments, 21 businesses and industries and 12 civil society organizations addressed priority chemical issues with UNEP’s support. Lesotho, Swaziland and Viet Nam conducted national mercury inventories, while Madagascar identified alternatives for mercury-free products. Several mining companies in Chile and Peru implemented best practices, and dental associations in Tanzania and Uganda promoted the phasing out of dental mercury amalgam. Furthermore, several non-governmental organizations advocated for the UNEP-supported DDT Road Map, which focuses on phasing out this harmful persistent organic pollutant (POP). Another key highlight of UNEP’s work on chemicals has been progress on lead.

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Waste

UNEP works with governments, businesses and industries, and civil society organizations to help them address priority waste issues...

Waste

UNEP works with governments, businesses and industries, and civil society organizations to help them address priority waste issues. Over the last two years, seven national and local governments, nine businesses and industries, and seven civil society organizations addressed priority waste issues, bringing the total number of countries doing so to 22.

A key component of UNEP’s approach is the promotion of the use of waste agricultural biomass as a source of energy. Agricultural biomass waste can replace fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide energy to 1.6 billion people in developing countries. Working with UNEP, Cambodia, Costa Rica and India have developed strategies to enhance the conversion of agricultural biomass waste into energy, with businesses putting in place appropriate technologies to scale-up results.

UNEP has also placed a sharper focus on ‘waste as a resource’ and the ‘circular economy’. A good foundation for these approaches was laid by the Global Waste Management Outlook, which found that up to 10 billion tonnes of urban waste is generated each year. The report pointed to ways to eradicate this waste, such as the inclusion of informal recyclers in municipal waste management systems – which, for example, diverts 1,200 tonnes of waste daily from landfills and employs 8,250 people in Bogotá, Colombia. Together with other key elements, such as the development of an academic consortium to create a waste management curriculum and the preparation of guidelines for a legislative framework on waste management, this strengthens the basis for UNEP’s future work on waste management and prevention issues.

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Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are carbon-based chemical substances that persist in the environment, accumulate through the food web in the fatty tissue of living organisms, including humans, and cause adverse eects to human health and the environment.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are carbon-based chemical substances that persist in the environment, accumulate through the food web in the fatty tissue of living organisms, including humans, and cause adverse eects to human health and the environment.

In the past PCBs were used as coolants and insulating fluids for transformers and capacitors, such as those used in old fluorescent light ballasts. Today, up to 9.3 million tonnes still need to be eliminated, with the largest amounts found in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. To address this challenge, UNEP helped to establish the PCB Elimination Network (PEN), for which it serves as the secretariat.

Agricultural biomass generated per year

Global

140 billion metric tonnes

Cambodia

Equivalent to approximately

India

Equivalent to approximately

Costa Rica

140 billion metric tonnes

For more information on UNEP's work on chemicals and waste, please visit our Chemicals and Waste page or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

For more details on performance indicators and finances, please download UNEP's Programme Performance Report for 2014-2015