ASEAN Cooperation on Chemicals and Waste

With growing population and rapid industrialization, ASEAN countries face serious challenges in the area of chemicals and waste management. Promoting sound chemicals and waste management is, therefore, one of the priority areas of ASEAN cooperation on environment.

Over the past few decades, there has been a growing concern that chemicals, while essential in modern life and the economy, can cause significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. The intensive and often insufficiently controlled use of pesticides continues to rise in the agricultural sector and is particularly one of the biggest chemicals management challenges in the ASEAN region.

Aside from the adverse impacts on human health and the environment, the pesticide residue in products resulting from lack of control over pesticide use may also cause export restrictions to countries with strict regulations, affecting trade and causing economic losses to farmers, industry, and governments.

Waste management, including solid waste, hazardous waste, and e-waste, as well as its transboundary movement, is another key issue in ASEAN's agenda, as improper management of waste may also lead to adverse impacts to environment and human health. In 2012, Southeast Asia produced 202,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) (1.03 kg per person) per day and this is predicted to double by 2025. Food loss per capita in Southeast Asia is 120-170 kg per year, accounting for 26-36 percent of the total per capita production of edible parts of food for human consumption?460 kg /year. A recent study shows a 63% increase in e-waste. The average domestic e-waste generation in ASEAN in 2014 was 4.64 kg/inhabitant (inh), which is higher than the whole of Asia (3.7 kg/inh) and Africa (1.7 kg/inh).

ASEAN is committed to addressing these chemicals and waste issues as set out in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025.

  1. Strengthen public-private partnership to promote the adoption of environmentally-sound technologies for maximizing resource-efficiency;
  2. Promote environmental education (including eco-school practice), awareness, and capacity to adopt sustainable consumption and green lifestyle at all levels; ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025;
  3. Enhance capacity of relevant stakeholders to implement sound waste management and energy efficiency; and
  4. Promote the integration of Sustainable Consumption and Production strategy and best practices into national and regional policies or as part of CSR activities. Establish effectively and fully functioning regional mechanisms to address transboundary hazardous wastes, including illegal traffic of hazardous wastes, in line with the Basel Convention Procedures and Modalities.

ASEAN Working Group on Chemicals and Waste (AWGCW) was established to serve as a consultative platform among ASEAN Member States to further strengthen regional coordination and cooperation in addressing chemicals-related issues under relevant multilateral environmental agreements such as Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention, Stockholm Convention, and Minamata Convention, as well as internationally agreed-upon systems such as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

The scope of collaboration through the AGWCW will include:

  1. Policy and strategy formulation and implementation through development of an Action Plan to facilitate regional coordination to support the implementation of and compliance with international chemicals-related conventions and agreements;
  2. Knowledge and experience sharing on the activities related to the management of the transboundary movement of chemical substances, and chemical wastes management in accordance with relevant International Agreements;
  3. Institutional and human capacity building for AMS in relation to the management of the transboundary movement of hazardous chemical substances, and chemical waste management.
  4. Joint research on chemicals and hazardous waste management;
  5. Coordination and collaboration among AMS and also among various relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies and dialogue partners to ensure a well-coordinated and integrated approach to promoting activities related to the transboundary movement of hazardous chemical substances, and chemical waste management.

To better understand the status, gaps and challenges of chemicals and waste management in ASEAN countries and to inform policy decision making process, ASEAN and UN Environment International Environment Technology Centre (IETC), in coordination with Asian Institute of Technology and Basel Convention Regional Centre for Southeast Asia, conducted scoping studies on the status of solid waste, e-waste, and mercury waste management in ASEAN countries.

ASEAN also issued an ASEAN Joint Declaration on Hazardous Chemicals and Waste Management in 2016 to articulate ASEAN's concern and commitment to addressing hazardous chemicals and waste management issues in the region.