27 August 2019: Representatives of Caribbean island States have launched an initiative that aims to address chemical and waste management in small island developing States (SIDS) globally, with a focus on countries in the Caribbean, and the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The ‘Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS)’ programme was formally launched in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 27 August 2019.

The USD 450 million initiative seeks to implement regional and national solutions for preventing and managing waste and pollution in SIDS. In the Caribbean region, for example, it aims to eliminate over 9,000 metric tons of contaminated material and more than 150,000 metric tons of marine litter.

In the Caribbean, the five-year programme will bring together governments and other stakeholders to develop and implement regional legislation on chemicals and waste management, including the elimination of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), highly hazardous pesticides, and the sound management of e-waste and end-of-life vehicles. It will also, inter alia: improve control on the import of products; support the design of sanitary engineered landfills and sustainable food production systems; and promote sustainable consumption through circular economy approaches.

The world is increasingly focused on illegal traffic in waste and the accumulation of plastic, especially in oceans.

The capacity of SIDS to safely manage and dispose of toxic and polluting substances is under pressure from growing populations, rapid development and increasing amounts of imported goods. As of 2019, SIDS produced an average of 2.3 kilograms (kg) of waste per person per day, much of it from the tourism sector, which is 48% higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.

Speaking in advance of the ISLANDS launch, Saint Lucia’s Minister for Sustainable Development, Gale Rigobert, called for SIDS-appropriate sustainable technologies for waste treatment. While noting her country’s reliance on tourism for prosperity, she said that a business-as-usual (BAU) approach with respect to waste management and disposal practices will lead to economic losses of around USD 28 million per year due to damages from the toxic substance and waste accumulation in the environment.

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, said the initiative is timely as the world is increasingly focused on illegal traffic in waste and the accumulation of plastic, especially in oceans. He acknowledged the unique challenges related to waste faced by SIDS due to their remoteness, scarcity of land and access to appropriate technology, as well as challenges resulting from economies of scale for waste management, including recycling.

The project, for which the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is providing USD 61 million, is being implemented with support from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Participating countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, the Cook Islands, the Dominican Republic, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Guyana, Kiribati, Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Comoros and Vanuatu. [UNEP Press Release]