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Press Release

For immediate release, February 8th ,2016


New Commission proposal puts EU on path from hero to zero to address global mercury crisis

Brussels, 8 February 2016 – The European Commission has quietly launched its new mercury package on 2nd February 2016 [1], moving the EU a step closer towards ratifying the Minamata Convention, a UN treaty to stamp out mercury [2]. While the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomes the new package, its content fails to meet even the lowest of expectations.

We are deeply disappointed with this bare-bones proposal from the Commission,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager.  “Under the guise of Better Regulation, it is putting the EU on an embarrassing path from hero to zero in addressing the global mercury crisis.  The proposal effectively ignores a public consultation, progressive industry voices, and even the scientific findings of its own impact assessment.”

The package sets out plans to update existing EU law in line with the internationally-agreed goals to limit mercury supply, use and emissions under the treaty. Despite the EU having played a leading role in the formation of the Convention, the new plan to put it into practice appears to have fallen victim to the EU’s Better Regulation agenda. The package was already delayed by over a year – pushing back the UN treaty ratification process [3] – and ambition is thin on the ground.

The new proposals follow the lowest-cost approach across the board rather than promoting higher environmental protection, according to the EEB. Elsewhere, other ‘new’ proposals are simply repackaged existing EU legislation, and some of the treaty requirements seem not to be covered by the proposal at all.

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, especially to the developing nervous system. Mercury transforms to neurotoxic methylmercury, which has the capacity to collect in organisms (bioaccumulate) and to concentrate up food chains (biomagnify), especially in the aquatic food chain – fish, the basic food source for millions of people.

Recent studies indicate that mercury levels are increasing in tuna by 4% per year, correlating with the continuing rise in mercury in the global environment. If steps are not taken to reduce global mercury pollution, levels of mercury are expected to double by 2050 [4]. 

The EEB will now be calling on the European Parliament and Member States to recognise the gravity of the situation and adopt measures that will reduce and eliminate all unnecessary uses and releases of mercury.


For more information, please contact:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Campaign Project Manager, +32 (2) 289 13 01, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Paul Hallows, Communications Officer, +32 (2) 790 88 17, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Notes to editors:

[1] Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury by the EU


[2] The Minimata Convention on Mercury http://www.mercuryconvention.org

To meet the Convention requirements, six areas are identified which need additional legislation at the EU level:

  • The import of mercury

  • The export of certain mercury added products

  • The use of mercury in certain manufacturing processes

  • New mercury uses in product and manufacturing processes

  • Mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM)

  • Mercury use in dental amalgams

[3] NGOs Letter to the European Commission - The EU and its Member States should rapidly ratify the Minamata Convention on mercury, 14 December 2015


[4] Over the past year, it has become more apparent than ever that the global mercury crisis is affecting the food we eat.  Mercury concentrations in tuna are increasing at a rate of 3.8 percent or more per year, according to a new study that suggests rising atmospheric levels of the toxin are to blame. This correlates with recent studies showing that mercury levels in the global environment are set to double by 2050, if current pollution and deposition rates continue. More information: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150202151217.htm

Partnerships PDF Print
Friday, 03 September 2010 17:17

Governments first started referring to partnership activities in view of reducing mercury use, supply and demand, in 2005, at the 23rd Session of the UNEP Governing Council. The projects under these activities were mainly funded by the US. A number of countries from the developing world expressed interest to participate, and therefore established respective agreements.

UNEP Governing Council 25, February 2009, mandated governments, concurrently with the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee, to continue and enhance, as part of the international action on mercury, the existing work, in the following areas:

(a) Enhancing capacity for mercury storage;
(b) Reducing the supply of mercury from, for example, primary mercury mining;
(c) Conducting awareness-raising and pilot projects in key countries to reduce mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining;
(d) Reducing mercury use in products and processes and raising awareness of mercury-free alternatives;
(e) Providing information on best available techniques and best environmental practices and on the conversion of mercury-based processes to non-mercury based processes;
(f) Enhancing development of national inventories on mercury;
(g) Raising public awareness and supporting risk communication;
(h) Providing information on the sound management of mercury;

 The overall goal of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.

In 2009, the Overarching Framework of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership established a Partnership Advisory Group to encourage the work of the partnership areas. The Partnership Advisory Group, composed of up to 25 members, was established through the Overarching Framework of the Global Mercury Partnership to serve the Partnership. Its membership includes partnership area leads, partners nominated by the partnership areas and other representatives.  Observers may attend meetings of the Partnership Advisory Group.

Under the UNEP Global  Mercury Partnership, six partnership areas have been established, including:

·         Mercury Control from Coal combustion
·         Mercury reduction in the Chlor-alkali sector;
·         Mercury Reduction in products;
·         Mercury air transport and fate research;
·         Reducing mercury in artisanal and small‑scale gold mining,
·         Mercury waste management,  
·         Mercury supply and storage.

 The ZMWG is the interim lead for the Mercury Supply and storage partnership.

ZMWG  has been following developments and providing input towards all of the partnership areas:



In 2011

PAG: The 3rd PAG meeting took place on 5-6 November , Nairobi Kenya, following the INC 3. ZMWG was represented by Ban Toxics!. NRDC and IPEN also attended the meeting. Minutes and more information can be found at http://new.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/PAGThirdMeeting/tabid/56156/Default.aspx

Storage and Supply Partnership: ZMWG has been the interim lead since 2009 - at the PAG 3 the governments of Spain and Uruguay stepped up to take the lead.

ZMWG set up and held an exhibition booth for the Partnership durign the INC 3 in Nairobi, and assisted in the relevant demonstration talks which took place during that week.

UNEP Hg INC 3 Nairobi Kenya 11/2011

ASGM Partnership

ZMWG attended the Regional South East Asia  National ASGM Strategic Planning project in Cambodia on March 22-24, 2011 organized by UNEP, and provided input to the discussions.The pre-meeting documents, including the Philippines and Cambodia National Strategic Action Plans,  can be found at: http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/PrioritiesforAction/ArtisanalandSmallScaleGoldMining/Meeting/ConclusionWorkshop/t

Furthermore ZMWG member organisations attended the Anglophone West Africa Awareness Raising Workshop on mercury in Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining that took place in Lagos, Nigeria from 8 – 10 June, 2011.

Intput was provided by the group for the revision of the business plan of the partnership. Revised documents can be found at http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/InterimActivities/Partnerships/ArtisanalandSmallScaleGoldMining/tabid/3526/language/en-US/Default.aspx

The ZMWG also submitted comments on two ASGM relevant documents in December 2011:

ZMWG cover note for comments on the Summary for Policymakers of Analysis of formalization approaches in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector based on experiences in Latin America, Africa and Asia , and 

Detailed comments on the document

ZMWG Comments on the document entitled: Reducing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining: A practical guide.

ZMWG also contributed with posters from its funded projects on the ASGM partnership exhibition booth during INC 3


Chlor-alkali partnership

NRDC and EEB provided input and actively participated at the consultation process for the development of the 'Draft Paper on Conversion from Mercury to Alternative Technology in the Chlor-Alkali Industry', which was published for the INC 3.

ZMWG also contributed with posters from its funded projects on the partnership exhibition booth during INC 3.

Products Partnership

ZMWG contributed to different discussions mainly focusing on mercury in dental amalgam.

Under the Enlighten initiative , ZMWG participated at two meetings of the Task force on Consumer, environmetnal protection and recycling, one in Eindhoven, the Netherlands on 14-15 MArch 2011, and in Paris 6-7 July 2011. Continuous text contributions have been provided on the different drafts circulated in preparation for the roadmap.

ZMWG also contributed with posters from its funded projects on the partnership exhibition booth during INC 3.

In 2010

 PAG:  The UNEP Mercury Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) met on 22-23 September 2010 inGeneva. ZMWG was represented by MPP and EEB. Also NRDC and Artisanal Gold Council attended as well as IPEN and HCWH. Minutes from this meeting will be circulated in due time.

Storage Partnership:

·         The LAC Storage Executive Committee meeting took place on 21-22 October 2010 inSantiago,Chile. ZMWG was represented by MPP and NRDC. Also AAMMA attended the meeting. The meeting discussed in detail the most recent storage option report and possible next steps.  A final version of the report is expected by the end of November.

·         Draft FAQs on Mercury Waste and Storage.  A draft document simplifying and explaining the terminologies surrounding waste and storage is being developed by UNEP.   This document was previously conceptualized as a Glossary, but continues to be in flux.  ZMWG has provided input to the document.  As of this writing UNEP is still in the process of finalizing comments to the document, which is expected to be presented to relevant parties on the 1 December 2010- Storage event in Germany (in the framework of the GRS/BMU International Conference on Underground Hazardous Waste Disposal)

·         Please find on the link below the report of the Workshop on Underground Disposal of Hazardous Waste, which took place on 30Th November, organized by the GRS together with the German Ministry of Environment. The meeting was attended by EEB on behalf of ZMWG and ESDO (Bangladesh) on behalf of IPEN.


In the workshop, the practicality of underground waste disposal, the long-term chemical behaviour of waste components, geotechnical barriers such as shaft and drift sealings (here the main focus was on shaft sealings in rock salt), etc. were discussed at length.

·         This workshop was followed by a UNEP Workshop on Revised Options Analysis of Mercury storage in Asia and the Pacific/ Glossary of terms with relevance to Storage and Disposal, on 1st and 2nd December 2010. The workshop focused on two issues:

a. Review of the Asian Study on Storage- presentation of the GRS revised study Analysis of options for the environmentally sound management of surplus mercury in Asia and the Pacific

b. The glossary of terms related to mercury storage and disposal.

ZMWG has commented to both the Glossary and the Asia Pacific study –

ZMWG comments on the 1st draft Revised Asian Storage study, 14 December 2010

ZMWG comments on 1st draft UNEP glossary of terms related to waste and storage terms, 22 October 2010

Further detailed comments were provided at the glossary in exchanges with UNEP and the consultant. 

Waste partnership: Following this meeting and since there were many concerns raised on the promotion of waste incineration from some countries as an Environmentally sound way to manage mercury waste a letter has been drafted by ZMWG, addressed to UNEP, and circulated to all networks.

Relevant documents that the partnership is developing had been circulated. ZMWG sent comments to those in November last year.

ZMWG comments on 6th draft of Technical Guidelines of Mercury under the Baselconvention, Cover note, Detailed comments, 30 November 2010

ZMWG comments on the Draft Good practices for management of mercury releases from wastes, under the UNEP Waste Partnership on mercury. 30 November 2010

New documents have been circulated for comments by the Waste Partnership just before the end of the year – Revised business plan, 6th vs. 2 draft of the draftBasel guidelines on mercury waste. Comments/reactions awaited.

ASGM partnership: UNEP will host a  Global Forum on ASGM from December 7 – 9 inManila.  The purpose of the meeting is to engage governments, NGOs, international donor agencies, private sector etc., to discuss the technical, financial and social issues related to ASGM, and to discuss options for dealing with ASGM under the mercury treaty. A number of ZMWG members will be attending.  If all goes well, there may be an opportunity to prepare a briefing post-forum to elaborate some of the treaty options discussed there.

UNEP hosted a  Global Forum on ASGM from December 7 – 9 in Manila.  The purpose of the meeting was to engage governments, NGOs, international donor agencies, private sector etc., to discuss the technical, financial and social issues related to ASGM, and to discuss options for dealing with ASGM under the mercury treaty. A number of ZMWG members attended, and feedback received was that the Forum was quite successful. For more info please contact Richard This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and/or  Susan This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Furthermore 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 represented by MPP and EEB attended the Consumer, environmental protection and recycling  taskforce meeting, 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 is foreseen for the 14-15 March 2011.

Different documents and reports are being drafted in relation to some of the areas above, and to those the international network Zero Mercury Working Group has been sending comments:

ZMWG comments on 1st draft UNEP glossary of terms related to waste and storage terms
22 October 2010

ZMWG comments on the Study on mercury-emitting sources,including emission trends and cost and effectiveness of alternative control measures “UNEP Paragraph 29 Study”.
Cover note
Comments in the text
10 October 2010

ZMWG comments on UNEP Mercury partnership on waste area
Cover note
Comments on business plan
Comments on resource doc
10 September 2010

EEB-NRDC comments on the Draft Mercury Chlor-alkali inventory
Cover email
On Explanatory text
On inventory
1 September 2010
On 8 September NRDC also participated at a relevant conference call – for the minutes contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

ZMWG comments on the Draft Process Optimization Guidance Document for reducing mercury emissions from coal fired power plants (the POG document)
Cover note
Comments in the text
1 September 2010

ZMWG comments on the document entitled  Principles for Evaluation of Received Information and Preparation of Sectorial Scenarios in the UNEP Paragraph 29 Study.
Cover note
Comments in the text
9 August 2010

Earlier on ZMWG also sent  input to the UNEP Partnership survey, 30 July 2010


In 2009

On 16-17th November 2009 a joint WHO-UNEP Experts Consultation of the "Future Use of Dental Restorative Materials" is foreseen to take place. The meeting is in response to UNEP GC 25/5 mandate to continue the existing work under the Global Mercury Partnership particularly in the areas of reducing mercury in products and processes and raising awareness of mercury-free alternatives, reducing mercury supply and enhancing storage capacities, and providing information on sound management of mercury.

Over 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world signed and addressed a letter to the meeting , calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish a schedule to phase out the use of dental mercury fillings as soon as possible.

In 2008

An Overarching Framework for the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership has been developed in response to UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3 Paragraph 27.  UNEP actively consulted with governments and stakeholders on the framework as mandated under UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3 paragraph 27, including through the Meeting of partners and other stakeholders on the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, Geneva, 1-3 April 2008. 

A delegation of NGOs attended the above mentioned meeting and played a catalytic role in reaching agreement on the framework. 

ZMWG comments on the UNEP report on Atmospheric Emissions of mercury: Inventory, Sources and Transport,  the AMAP UNEP Report on Sources of mercury to the Atmosphiere: technical Background Document, and Mercury Fate and Transport in the Global atmosphere: measurements, models and policy iimplications produced by the Fate and transport partnership.
[10 August, 2008]

 In 2007

NGOs received a letter from UNEP asking for comments on the mercury partnerships on 4 June 2007.

On the 25-26 June 2007, EEB, MPP and HCWH participated at the UNEP Exploratory meeting on mercury partnerships in Geneva. Summary slides were produced by UNEP but NO formal report is foreseen to be produced.

17 July 2007, NGOs letter to UNEP, in response to UNEP’s request for comments on strengthening mercury partnerships, per the UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3.

In 2005

As a follow up to the 23rd UNEP Governing Council Decision, four meetings have taken place in relation to the Mercury partnerships. The Environmental NGOs attended those meetings.