Thirty-three Small Island Developing States (SIDS) took significant steps towards a cleaner environment earlier this week, with the global launch of a half-billion-dollar initiative to avoid marine litter and sustainably manage hazardous chemicals and waste.
Because of many islands’ small size, limited disposal capacity, and prohibitive export costs, over 80 per cent of mismanaged waste in SIDS ends up in the ocean, according to UN reports, leading to biodiversity loss, acceleration of climate change effects through emissions from waste, loss of national tourism revenue, and health impacts for local people exposed to the pollution.
Launched at the Conference of Parties of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions in Geneva, the $515 million Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-chemical Development in Small Island Developing States Programme (ISLANDS) will help island countries in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Indian, and Pacific ocean regions prevent the release of over 23,000 metric tons of toxic chemicals and more than 185,000 metric tons of marine litter by 2027.
Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), ISLANDS will help participating countries control the import of hazardous substances, soundly dispose of harmful chemicals and waste, and establish circular production systems, in partnership with the private sector.
“ISLANDS represent an unprecedented opportunity for SIDS – for all stakeholders, including governments, businesses and communities, to come together and work collaboratively to improve the health of our fragile environments,” Permanent Secretary of Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, Anita Montoute, said. “The outcomes of this programme will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come.”
GEF CEO Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said the ISLANDS program was designed to have the greatest possible impact by addressing chemicals and waste challenges in a holistic way, also involving companies from the tourism, recycling, and shipping sectors as partners united against pollution.
“Waste management — particularly plastic pollution — is an issue of urgent international concern, and it is essential that we support viable solutions to reduce marine litter and improve livability on land. By collaborating and working closely with industry, the ISLANDS program will allow some of the most world’s 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 said.
ISLANDS includes opportunities for private sector participation at various levels, including recycling training for private sector representatives, increased access to global recycling markets, and funding for small and medium-sized enterprises through initiatives such as the Inter-American Development Bank’s Blue Tech Challenge.
The programme has already secured commitments from the private sector, including Carnival Cruise Lines, which will partner with municipal authorities to jointly process local and cruise ship waste in the Caribbean, and tourism and hotel operator Iberostar, which has pledged that by 2025 no waste from its hotels will go to landfill.
Another innovative aspect of ISLANDS is its Waste-Free Shipping Partnership, an initiative that will provide free shipping of recyclables to recycling facilities, saving limited landfill space and creating new opportunities for island-based recycling companies.
In the Pacific, navigation company Swire Shipping has committed in-kind co-finance to help ISLANDS to develop end-of-life vehicle export and recycling businesses, and to provide free shipping of recyclables from Pacific countries to centers on the Pacific rim.
“Through ISLANDS we have the opportunity to scale up our Pacific-based Moana Taka Partnership – an agreement through which our vessels carry containers of recyclable waste, pro bono, to be treated and recycled in the Asia Pacific – to involve all shipping companies servicing small islands and significantly increase recycling rates,” Swire Shipping Managing Director James Woodrow said.