Chemicals and Waste
The development of the chemicals industry has brought many benefits that underpin advances in agriculture and food production, crop pest control, industrial manufacturing, sophisticated technology, medicine and electronics. Around 248 000 chemicals are now commercially available and the pace of their production and use continues to grow (Figure 6).
Nonetheless, some chemicals pose risks to the environment and human health because of their intrinsic hazardous properties. The negative effects on human health and the environment, and consequently the cost of inaction, are likely to be substantial. Chemicals and waste management are currently addressed through a number of regional and global multilateral environmental agreements, including the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and, since 2006, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). Even so, more chemicals of global concern need to be addressed by such agreements.
Greater urbanization has contributed to the generation of more waste, including e-waste in general and more hazardous waste from industrial and other activities. The countries of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) produced some 650 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2007, growing at around 0.5–0.7 per cent each year, of which 5–15 per cent was e-waste. There are indications that the final destination of most e-waste is the developing world and that, at the global scale developing countries, may generate twice as much e-waste as developed countries by 2016.
Figure 6: Chemical sales by country, 2009