Chemicals and waste management


A worker at the Lagluja dumpe site, the biggest collector of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Georgia. UNDP and GEF are working with the government and local authorities to reduce the release of POPs from the stockpiles and, wherever possible, evacuate the toxic substances from the country. Photo: Vladimer Valishvili/UNDP

Chemicals are critical to the manufacture of many products and protection of human health, and an important contributor to the GDP and employment. However, without good management practices, chemicals and their hazardous wastes can pose significant risks to human health and the environment especially the poorest members of the global community.  In urban areas, low-income or minority populations are often exposed to hazardous chemicals and associated wastes in their jobs or because they reside in polluted areas. In rural areas, most chemical exposure and environmental pollution is linked to the misuse of agricultural chemicals and pollution brought by waterways, impacting the natural resources upon which these communities depend.

The sound management of chemicals and wastes is an important component of UNDP’s efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and resilient human development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNDP advocates for integrating chemicals management priorities into national environmental and poverty reduction planning frameworks, helps countries access financial and technical resources, and provides assistance and implementation support to improve the holistic management of chemicals and waste at national, regional and global levels. We tackle unsustainable consumption and production patterns, including poor design and material choices, which lead to resource depletion, waste generation and pollution.  

UNDP’s expertise covers management of chemicals harmful to human and environmental health, including Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), Mercury, Lead, and other heavy metals. UNDP helps countries strengthen their waste management systems, including waste prevention, reuse/recycling, treatment and disposal. Safe and effective treatment of hazardous medical waste (e.g. from the Ebola crisis in West Africa) through innovative technologies is also underway.  

As an implementing agency for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP supports implementation of projects on POPs, mercury, lead and waste in 84 countries, addressing country priorities under relevant chemicals-related global environmental agreements; under these projects, 220,000 people have been safeguarded from high-risk POPs exposure, 65 POPs policies and regulations adopted, and 335,000 tonnes of POPs contaminated waste safeguarded. Under the UNDP-UNEP Partnership Initiative, 17 additional countries have assessed their capacity for the sound management of chemicals, identified needs, and integrated management priorities into national development policies and plans, using the UNDP SMC mainstreaming methodology.

UNDP activities on chemicals and waste management are carried out in cooperation with the GEF, other IOMC members, Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention on POPs, Interim Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and a broad range of bilateral, private sector and NGO partners.

Related publications
Chemicals and Waste Management for Sustainable Development

The brochure (in English, French and Spanish) summarizes the impact of UNDP-supported activities to implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, illustrates linkages with proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and charts the way forward. The brochure captures results and best practices of our support to reduce and eliminate POPs, featuring China, Georgia, Honduras, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Nigeria, and Viet Nam as well as a regional project in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

UNDP Guide for Integration of Sound Management of Chemicals into Development Planning Processes

The UNDP Guide provides a systematic approach to countries to help assess their capacity for sound management of chemicals, identify needs, and  incorporate identified priorities into national development planning.

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