Kiribati’s ocean waters are amongst the most productive and least polluted on earth. The people of Kiribati have always utilised their natural resources and the marine environment sustains them; they depend on it for food, transport, traditional and culural practices and economic opportunities. An estimated 80% of the population continues to depend primarily on these resources for their livelihoods and income generation. Economic development that has propelled the transition from a traditional subsistence lifestyle to a contemporary market-based economy has brought key environmental challenges.
The small island developing state and least developed country has increasing levels of chemicals use, which predominantly derives from imports rather than national production. Harm to the environment and to human health has been found, notably in terms of obsolete pharmaceutical wastes (known as environmentally-persistent pharmaceutical pollutants; EPPPs) and school chemicals. In 2006, there was a cleanup work coordinated by SPREP in repacking expired pharmaceutical drugs (Figure 2) and national capacity trainings delivered on School hazardous chemicals management under the POP NIPs(2008) and SAICM (2014) to which Kiribati involved in. (Figure 1)
Kiribati does not have access to complete information about the production, import, transport, use, storage, and disposal of chemicals in the country. Institutional strengthening is therefore needed to establish a comprehensive chemicals and waste management strategy across all sectors that includes all relevant stakeholders. This will be carried out by developing data collection systems, awareness raising, training activities, and establishing regulatory and non-regulatory frameworks, building on previously-established structures and capacities.
The project under the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme, also known as the Special Programme, will therefore address the development of a national information sharing system to strengthen Kiribati’s institutional capacity to undertake regular data collection and analysis, and establish a central repository for data. This would enhance also, the current Environment Database that is currently under development and is still a work in progress at the Environment Conservation Division, Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Agricultural Development. Such an information system will provide the public with access to data and spur national actions toward the sound management of chemicals and waste on the atolls at the national and island levels.
The project will also aim to enhance the outreach at the country level, through awareness raising on the safe handling of chemicals and waste, specifically, through the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Training will be provided to school teachers and students, about the local disposal of obsolete laboratory chemicals, and everyday products used in school.
Given the predominance of imported chemicals and chemical products in Kiribati, it is important that customs and other law enforcements agencies, for example the police, can identify hazardous chemicals. They too will be trained on the labelling of chemicals, safe handling, and prevention of illegal trafficking.
Currently, Kiribati does not process waste items or undertake recycling locally.
Waste materials are shipped from the islands for recycling purposes through a local company. Waste recycling activities include recycling aluminium, steel (bulk), car-batteries, e-waste, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles. Through the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme, local recycling companies will be encouraged to recycle in Kiribati and adopt bring-back schemes including the adoption of the 3R + Return waste minimisation guiding principle. As of now, Kiribati Recycling Limited is the only local company involved in waste recycling.
Figure 4. Beverage cans & PET bottles ready for shipment
Kiribati is undergoing a process which consolidates the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into its national plans, with the Government of Kiribati recognizing the environment as one of the three pillars of sustainable development. Kiribati has incorporated chemicals and waste management issues into its Integrated Environment Policy. This will provide a strengthened basis and enabling environment not only for implementing the provisions of the Basel, Stockholm and Minamata Conventions and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management into the national agenda but also in achieving Government’s long term development blueprint known as Kiribati vision 2016-2036 or KV20 . The KV20 consists of strategic goals for 20 years
and anchors on 4 key pillars; Wealth, Peace & Security, Infrastructure Development and Governance. Fisheries and Tourism are the two main focus areas to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 hence chemical and waste management is an integral whole of the KV20. The coordination of the project will be in the hands of several national ministries including the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Ministry of Employment, and Human Resource Development, the private sector and civil society.(Figure 5)
Figure 5. National stakeholders in chemical management
“As Secretary for Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Agricultural
Development (MELAD) and also SAICM’s national focal point, I wish to
acknowledge the ongoing technical support provided by UNITAR in particular GEF
and the UNEP Special Programme for the financial support which will enhance
Kiribati institutional capacity for the national implementation of the Basel Convention on the Control of the
Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the Stockholm
Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Minamata Convention on Mercury
and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management” – Ms Taare