by IISD's SDG Knowledge Hub,

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched a half-billion-dollar initiative to help 33 small island developing States (SIDS) avoid marine litter and sustainably manage hazardous chemicals and waste. The initiative aims to prevent the release of 23,000 metric tons of toxic chemicals and more than 185,000 metric tons of marine litter by 2027.

The USD 515 million Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) programme was launched on 7 June 2022 on the sidelines of the Conferences of Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions.

According to UNEP’s SIDS Waste Management Outlook, over 80% of mismanaged waste in SIDS ends up in the ocean, since SIDS have limited disposal capacity and excessively high export costs, leading to biodiversity loss, accelerated climate change effects through emissions from waste, decreased revenue from tourism, and health impacts from pollution exposure.

ISLANDS will help countries control the import of hazardous substances, dispose of harmful chemicals and waste in a sound manner, and establish circular production systems, partnering with the private sector. The programme will involve all stakeholders, including those from the tourism, recycling, and shipping sectors, to facilitate transportation and treatment of waste. The private sector will participate at different levels, including through recycling training, increased access to global recycling markets, and funding for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said the ISLANDS programme “will allow some of the world’s most vulnerable countries to transform the way waste is treated and make real progress towards building a circular economy.” “In that sense, this program is going to be important for the whole world,” he stressed.

Several companies have already made commitments through the initiative. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines will partner with municipal authorities to process local and cruise ship waste in the Caribbean, while Iberostar is working to ensure no waste from its hotels ends up in landfills. Through the ISLANDS Waste-Free Shipping Partnership, companies have committed to ship recyclables free of charge to recycling facilities.

ISLANDS is a five-year initiative, funded by the GEF and implemented through UNEP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). It was launched at a BRS COPs side event titled, ‘GEF ISLANDS Launch.’ [UNEP Press Release] [GEF Press Release




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