Over the past four decades, a set of global environmental agreements has developed to address certain issues in chemicals management at the global level. In addition, the global community has proclaimed the goal of achieving the sound management of chemicals by 2020. Recognizing the need to implement existing agreements, this article examines the current cluster of global agreements for chemicals and waste, and their ability to achieve the sound management of chemicals in 2020 and beyond. The Basel, Minamata, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, as well as the non-binding Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, are analyzed using core elements of environmental treaties, including principles and approaches of international environmental law. From this analysis, five challenges are identified: supporting implementation; ensuring adequate finance; filling global information gaps; expanding the narrow scope of current legally binding instruments; and avoiding the development of a ‘treaty thicket’ in the global governance of chemicals and waste.