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Summary of the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   

[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

Lamps PDF Print
Friday, 30 July 2010 17:03

Mercury is a necessary element that is added to lamps to form a vapour which produces light when current is passed through it under a vacuum. Lamps such as: compact fluorescent (CFL), long fluorescent (LFL), high-intensity discharge (HID), high-pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide(MH), neon, mercury vapour, use mercury.  5-50 mg mercury is used as mercury vapour, which, when energized, emits ultraviolet energy. This generates visible light when it reacts with the phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp.

Mercury-containing lamps are already widely used, yet sometimes people do not realise that they contain mercury. In the coming years millions of these lamps are expected to flood the world consumer markets and be used in homes, businesses and institutions, since bans are planned on the incandescent lamp in many countries, because it uses more energy.

Mercury can be released during the manufacturing process, especially if hand-dosing of liquid Hg is used. It can also be released when lamps are transported from the factory to the retailer, to the consumer and eventually to disposal. When mercury-containing lamps are installed, stored or disposed, they can break and mercury can be released. During disposal of lamps in dumpsters, rubbish bins, incinerators and landfills, mercury can be released and enter into the atmosphere. Even if lamps get recycled, mercury can evaporate during crushing, mercury recovery, as well as metal smelting. All of these instances need to be addressed and solutions found so that mercury does not get released but instead is removed and recycled carefully.

The “mercury paradox”:
Apart from the mercury which may be released from a mercury-containing energy saving lamp during its lifetime, mercury is a trace element in coal; therefore energy produced via coal combustion causes mercury releases. Hence lower energy consumption – via energy saving lamps – may lead to less mercury emissions via the energy production route. However, mercury releases vary with the percentage of coal and the mercury content of the coal in the fuel mix, the extent of mercury controls on coal combustion flue gases, the assumed lifetime of a CFL, the mercury content of the CFL, the rate of secure collection of waste CFLs, the disposal pathways for CFLs not collected, and other means.

As a result, reductions of mercury releases through the use of CFLs may not be overwhelming, depending on the region and country; the great benefit of using CFLs is energy efficiency. Therefore, to reduce overall mercury use and release, it is imperative to reduce the mercury content in CFLs to an absolute minimum, as well as to maximise the lifetime and lumens per watt of all mercury lamps. It is also crucial to ensure that mercury-containing lamps at the end of their lives are collected separately in order to maximise the recycling of all mercury lamps.

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

The EU has developed and passed two pieces of legislation regulating the content and disposition of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). Directive 2002/96/EC (WEEE) mainly ensures separate collection and recycling of EEE, while Directive 2002/95/EC (RoHS) bans the use of certain hazardous chemicals – including mercury or any components containing mercury – in new equipment marketed after 1 July 2006. The RoHS directive presently includes such EEE as large household appliances, small household appliances, information and communications technology equipment, consumer devices, lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools,

At present, however, due to the lack of widely available energy-efficient alternatives, the EU has specifically permitted continued use of fluorescent lamps with a generally low mercury content, as well as all specialty mercury lamps (more details on this are contained in the RoHS Directive).

The content of mercury in energy efficient lighting has recently been revised under the relevant annex of the RoHS directive. EU NGOs have followed the review of this annex and developments and work can be found here. EEB/ZMWG organised a conference on the issue in 2008 - 'Mercury containing lamps under the spotlight'.

Mercury in lamps is also relevant to the EU Ecolabel. According to European Commission Decision 1999/568/EC (amended 9 September 2002), for a manufacturer to be allowed to use the European Ecolabel on a single-ended compact fluorescent lamp, the mercury content must not exceed 4 mg, and the life of the lamp must exceed 10,000 hours. This decision is under revision and mercury content maximum allowed level will be further lowered.


A new initiative called en.lighten has been initiated at UNEP level: The UNEP en.lighten initiative has been established to promote, accelerate and coordinate global efforts to push for efficient lighting. It seeks to accelerate the global commercialization and market transformation of efficient lighting technologies by working at global level and provide support to countries. In doing so it aims at strengthening capacities among governments, private sector and civil society to lead successful lighting market transformation programs. en.lighten is a UNEP initiative supported by the GEF Earth Fund, Philips Lighting and OSRAM GmbH.

ZMWG is co-chair and member of the Consumer, environmental protection and recycling taskforce, represented by MPP and EEB. They have been attending the first meeting of the task force on 20 September 2010, Geneva. Draft documents which were agreed to be developed are now being circulated. A second meeting of the Task Force on  Consumer, environmental protection and recycling took place on 14-15 March 2011 in the Netherlands, and on 6 July 2011 in Paris.

In the US several reports have been published and state legislation is implemented:

Information is provided at http://www.epa.gov/hg/consumer.htm#bat , at http://www.epa.gov/hg/regs.htm and at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm

Shedding Light on Mercury Risks from CFL Breakage, (http://mpp.cclearn.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/final_shedding_light_all.pdf)

Prepared by Edward Groth, PhD, For The Mercury Policy Project, February 2008.

The report recommends that sensitive populations should take extra precautions to reduce risks associated with CFL breakage, but says that CFLs generally can and should still be used in everyone’s homes until a nontoxic light bulb becomes available. The report also recommends the adoption of more comprehensive environmental and human health guidelines by decision makers that, in addition to energy-efficiency, address other concerns.

The US EPA has posted detailed guidelines for cleaning up breakage of CFLs and fluorescent linear tubes on their website, see:

Also included within these guidelines (on the right hand column) are reports related to the accidental breakage of CFLs:
2010 EU Commission SCHER Report, see: http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/environmental_risks/docs/scher_o_124.pdf

2008 State of Maine Report: http://www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeowner/cflreport.htm

See also laws for mercury-containing lamps, thermostats and other product discards in the USA: http://www.productstewardship.us/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=280

Proposed state legislation for mercury-containing lamps, thermostats and other product discards in the USA:  http://productstewardship.us/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=790


Green Lighting Campaign

Environmental groups are taking a pledge to consider only the “greenest” CFLs when making purchases for office use and during compact fluorescent lamp giveaways. The new “Green Lighting Campaign” intends to promote more sustainable lighting practices such as recycling, rather than throwing lamps containing mercury in the trash. Toxic levels in lamps have created concerns when the lamps are produced, transported, installed, broken or disposed of, say advocates. Absent mercury content reductions and manufacturing dosing improvements, global mercury use will increase with expanding fluorescent lighting use, and negate dramatic mercury reductions anticipated in most other sectors. Offered by a coalition of groups (see press release , the guidance and pledge have other organizations considering steps to include more than energy efficiency when determining their lighting purchases.

Creating a better world includes finding solutions that work to address multiple issues.  Using fluorescent lighting reduces greenhouse gas emissions, mercury and other pollutants coming from fossil-fuel fired power plants.  To work, these lamps need mercury.  Currently, the end-of-life for most household fluorescent lamps is through landfilling or incineration.

Links provided highlight the National Green Lighting campaign’s efforts to extend responsibility for all mercury-containing lighting by providing convenient, comprehensive and sustainable end-of-life solutions; as well as reducing toxicity, improving lighting quality and increasing efficiency/longevity of all lamps sold.

The Green Lighting Campaign submited comments on US Dept. of Energy proposal: