Mercury - Time to Act

Mercury management options

Use of products containing mercury

Production processes

Stabilisation Solidification

Mercury input

Products waste

Waste from intentional use of mercury in processes

Mercury input


Industrial waste storage

Recovery (pre-treatment, thermal treatment, refinement)

Hazardous waste management facility Permanent storage Specially engineered landfill

Source: Adapted from UNEP 2011, Basel ConventionTechnical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of elemental mercury and wastes containing or contaminated with mercury Designed by Zoï Environment Network / GRID-Arendal, December 2012

Mercury is widely used in compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and the demand for them is increasing in the quest for en- ergy efficiency. According to the EU Directive 2002/95/EC on the restriction of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive), mercury content in CFLs not exceeding 5 mg per lamp is allowed. These lamps reduce electricity consumption so that in countries that gen- erate electricity largely from coal, there could be less electric- ity required for lighting, thereby saving about 10 per cent of emissions into the environment (EU, 2010). However, despite continuing industry efforts to reduce the mercury content of each CFL and proven recycling techniques allowing effective recovery of mercury at the end of a lamp’s life cycle, the high global demand for CFLs might present a challenge to achiev- ing the goal of effective reduction of mercury use.

Mercury storage and disposal is a growing problem. The glob- al trend towards phasing out products which contain mercu- ry and processes which use it will soon generate an excess of mercury if supplies remain at their current level. Environmen- tally sound management of mercury waste will be a critical issue for most countries. There are some good examples. But in the Latin American and Caribbean region, mercury supply may exceed demand by 2013. In 2012, UNEP helped Argen- tina and Uruguay to find environmentally sound solutions for the storage and disposal of excess mercury, including iden- tifying existing hazardous waste facilities that could serve as temporary storage and identifying relevant regulatory frameworks. Both countries developed National Action Plans for the environmentally sound management of mercury and mercury wastes.



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