The term "asbestos" is used to describe a group of naturally occurring minerals composed of long, thin fibres and fibre bundles. The mineral has high tensile strength, good insulating properties and is a fire retardant. However, medical information has indicated that inhalation of asbestos fibres may result in serious health issues including cancers in human.
Construction materials such as AC sheeting and roofing which contain asbestos fibres have been widely used in Pacific island countries for housing and building construction, and even though health concerns have led to their phase-out, they are still found in many buildings. The Pacific is subject to periodic catastrophic weather and geological events such as tsunamis and cyclones which are highly destructive to built infrastructure. As a consequence, asbestos containing materials are, or may become a significant waste and human health issue in many Pacific countries and management and disposal of asbestos in the region is critical to the maintenance of long-term community health. Environmentally sound asbestos disposal options are likely to be restricted to either local disposal in a secure landfill; transport to and disposal in an offshore secure landfill; or disposal of concrete encased asbestos containing materials at sea.
Stabilisation of asbestos in occupied buildings prior to its eventual removal should be considered an urgent priority by national governments to minimize future exposure of the public to asbestos fibres.
Click to view Regional Asbestos Strategy
For additional information on all regional asbestos disposal options, please contact SPREP directly and give the WMPC Directorate generic email
Electrical & Electronic Waste
E-waste typically refers to end-of-life electrical and electronic products including computers, printers, photocopy machines, television sets, washing machines, radios, mobile phones and toys, which are made of sophisticated blends of plastics, metals, and other materials. Due to the demand for newer technology, the life-span of electrical and electronic products is progressively decreasing. Consequently, older and out-dated items are becoming obsolete and being discarded in large quantities and at increasing rates worldwide.
The extent of the E-waste problem in the Pacific has not been comprehensively documented, but the limited information available indicates that the use of electrical and electronic equipment is increasing significantly on an annual basis in Pacific island countries. Electrical and electronic waste contains hazardous but also valuable and scarce materials such as metal and alloys which can be recovered and recycled. Proper management and disposal of E-waste is important to the long-term protection of local and regional Pacific environments, as well as to the maintenance of long-term regional sustainability.
Medical Waste Management
Medical wastes are typically poorly managed in the Pacific, and are usually disposal of through low temperature combustion in pits within hospital compounds or by uncontrolled dumping in landfills. Improper disposal of medical wastes can result in contamination of water supplies or aquatic environments and burning of medical wastes at low temperatures results in the release of toxic pollutants to the air. Landfill dumping of medical wastes results in unacceptable community health risks and expired drugs may be acquired by children or scavengers if disposed in a landfill. There may also be ineffective separation of medical waste at source.
In many cases where medical waste incinerators exist, they are often incorrectly operated, have technical problems or there is a lack of trained operators or a shortage of money for diesel fuel. Often the incinerators are donated, but they do not comply with best available technology or practices. An integrated framework to manage pharmaceuticals and progressively implement routine medical waste disposal through controlled high temperature incineration is essential for infection control and protection of the health of many smaller Pacific island communities.
Pacific Medical Waste Strategy 2013
Click to view WHO Medical Waste Documents