Projects launched to support GHS implementation in Africa


Kenya, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda implementing Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in national policy; Sierra Leone and Malawi partner with the UN Environment Program (UNEP) to study chemical and waste management within the countries to design long term policies and projects

In early April, the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) announced a new project with Kenya, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria to support the countries as they implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The ICCA and other partners will support the nations as they develop legislation as well as provide training and tools to help implement and enforce the new rules. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported it is backing projects from Sierra Leone and Malawi as the two nations develop national chemicals and waste management plans. Currently, the majority of waste in the two countries is burned in the open.

Developed by the United Nations, the GHS is a way to standardize the management of chemicals and communicate their hazards, for international trade and safety. While many multinational corporations that operate in Africa use the GHS, currently only Mauritius, South Africa, and Zambia have the GHS implemented as part of national policy. Rwanda began the process in 2021 by informing the World Trade Organization of its intentions, and the comment period closed in March 2022.

The UNEP-backed projects in Sierra Leone and Malawi are focused on achieving comprehensive waste management systems for the countries. Nearly three-quarters of Malawi’s waste “finds its way to open dump sites or is burnt,” according to the UNEP, and 8.5% of that is plastic. The three-year-long initiative in Malawi “will focus on raising public awareness, piloting a plastics recycling project, and establishing an integrated information management system for chemicals and waste.” An existing waste station will be retrofitted with a machine for turning plastics into pellets that can be sold to local plastics recycling facilities. Data gathering through the entire waste stream will enable the country to crate long-term evidence-backed plans in the future.

The project in Sierra Leone will run for two years and is focused on collecting the data necessary to create a national action plan. The plan will “bridge the gaps between the country’s current practices on managing chemicals and waste and the best practices outlined under the chemicals and waste related conventions” to which it is a member, namely the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, and Minamata Conventions.

Plastic waste was adopted into the Basel Convention in May 2019 (FPF reported) and places stricter controls on transporting plastic waste across borders. Despite that, the plastic waste trade continues to place the burdens of recycling and disposal on countries without the infrastructure to support it (FPF reported, also here). A report by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) found that “toxic chemicals in plastic waste exports from wealthy countries are contaminating food in developing/transition countries” (FPF reported). In March, 175 nations agreed to create a plastic pollution treaty which should help to alleviate some of the problems associated with the international plastic waste trade (FPF reported).

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Food Packaging Forum, 19-04-22