Promoting the sound management of chemicals and waste

1 million tonnes of hazardous waste generated daily in Asia Pacific.

The ocean is expected to contain more plastics than ­fish by 2050.

Chemical production in region is projected to increase by 46% from  2012-2020.

Poor management of chemicals and waste can lead to illness, contaminate neighbourhoods, and reduce the region’s productivity. UN Environment promotes policy interventions, investments, and institutional capacity-building for sound management of chemicals and waste.

Managing chemicals and waste of concern

Plastic Waste and Marine Litter

Marine litter has ecological, social and economic impacts. It threatens the wellbeing of over 600 marine animals, the economies of coastal communities, and the productivity of marine ecosystems underpinning our food systems. These organic pollutants travel up the food chain and are ultimately be consumed by humans—threatening our health. Financially, marine debris cost the the Asia Pacifi­c Economic Cooperation member countries US$1.3 billion each year.

Asia has driven growth in plastic production over recent decades and is the leading consumer of plastics.  Pacifi­c Island Countries and poor coastal communities in Asia are highly vulnerable to marine litter impacts due to their dependence on marine resources.

Where do they come from?

Rivers and canals run-off from land

Direct discharge at coastline and during sea-based activities.

Insufficiently treated Wastewater discharges


Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is a highly toxic silvery-white metal that is liquid at room temperature and evaporates easily. Once released, mercury can travel long distances, and persists in environments where it circulates between air, water, sediments, soil, and living organisms. Mercury is concentrated as it rises up the food chain, reaching its highest level in predator fish that may be consumed by humans.  High exposure to mercury is a serious risk to human health and the environment.

Where do They Come From?

  • Deposition from atmosphere
  • Coal fired power plant
  • Cement, chor-alkali, vinyl chloride, non-ferrous metal plants.
  • waste incineration and cremation
  • Urban sewage system
  • Artisanal small-scale gold mining.

What We Are Doing

Reduction of Land Based  Sources of Marine Pollution

With partners, we established initiatives to reduce solid waste in the marine environment. For example, we support Myanmar’s national waste management strategy development, and city-wide waste management plans in Bangkok, Thailand and Mandalay, Myanmar

Global and regional cooperation on marine litter

We team up with the Secretariat of the Paci­fic Regional Environment Programme on marine litter outreach and action in the Paci­fic and review the Regional Marine Litter Action Plan of the Coordinating Body on the Seas of the East Asia.

Ratification of the Minamata Convention

We prepare countries in the region to curb mercury pollution prepare for the Minamata Convention on Mercury’s entry into force. So far, ten countries -  Afghanistan, China, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, Palau, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam have ratified the Convention and will participate as parties in the first Conference of the Parties which will take place on 25 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Origin of the Name

This convention is named after a city in Japan called Minamata. The town endured acute mercury poisoning due to the dumping of methylmercury in the local waters by a chemical plant. As a result, fish and shellfish in the Minamata Bay consumed by locals, began accumulating mercury. This incident left many severely ill, disabled or dead.

Curbing artisanal and small scale gold mining in Myanmar

Under the Minamata Convention, countries are required to develop action plans to curb mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining. UN Environment is assisting Myanmar to prepare initial assessments and a national action plan with financial support from the Global Environment Facility.

Delivering integrated waste solutions at the national and local levels

UN Environment assists national and local authorities to develop strategies for integrated solid waste management to reduce waste, recycle, minimize accumulation in landfills, and ensure safe disposal of hazardous waste.

Regional Enforcement Network for Chemicals and Waste

The Regional Enforcement Network for Chemicals and Waste works with 25 Asia Pacific countries to prevent and control illegal transboundary movements of harmful substances and hazardous wastes. The network enhances enforcement of chemicals and waste multilateral agreements and is a platform for intelligence sharing. Our work in the region includes organizing the Asia Environmental Enforcement Award and workshops on illegal trade in chemicals and waste for customs officials. Learn more

Asia Environmental Enforcement Award recipients in Bangkok, Thailand.

Environment and Health Regional Forum

This triennial forum is a joint initiative of UN Environment and the World Health Organization to strengthen environmental health management in Southeast and East Asian countries. It promotes integrated environment health strategies and regulations by fostering cooperation between ministries of environment and health within and between countries. Learn more