Mercury Policies at EU level (EU 28)

Policies on mercury exist in the EU since the 70’s. The relevant pieces of legislation that are relevant can be found in a compilation made by BIOS consulting services in 2012 as part of a study for the EC – Annex 2. 

Beyond that, the EU developed a specific strategy on mercury in 2005 which was revised in 2010 –see history and all relevant work below. Implementation of the actions included in the EU mercury strategy has been taking place since 2005 and led to the adoption of a regulation on an EU mercury export and storage, directives on measuring devices, revisions related to mercury in lamps etc.

Most recently the EU adopted the Regulation (EU) 2017/852 which covers the full life cycle of mercury. It complements a large body of existing EU environmental law on mercury vis a vis the requirements of the Minamata Convention, by inter alia:

  • Prohibiting the export of mercury and mercury compounds;
  • Prohibiting the manufacture, export and import of a large range of mercury-added products;
  • Putting an end to all uses of mercury catalysts and large electrodes in industrial processes;
  • Reducing the use of and pollution from dental amalgam, which is the last large use of mercury in the EU, and setting out a process to assess the feasibility of a complete phase out of the use of mercury in dentistry;
  • Closing the door to future new uses of mercury in industry and in products;
  • Ensuring that all mercury waste is safely taken out of the economic sphere, stabilised in a less toxic form and stored permanently in environmentally sound conditions.

The EEB and other EU NGOs on behalf of ZMWG have followed and contributed actively to these pieces of legislation.

Key earlier milestone legislation on mercury in the EU includes:

EU Strategy on Mercury (2005)(2010)

Responding to a 2002 request from the Council of Ministers, the European Commission prepared a draft Community Mercury Strategy that, if adopted and implemented, would lead to substantial reductions in worldwide mercury pollution and exposure.

NGOs followed closely all relevant policy developments and contributed with letters, press releases and by organizing events.  

The EU Strategy on Mercury was presented by the Commission on 31 January 2005 and contained 20 actions.

The EEB organised an International conference “Towards a Mercury Free World” took place on the 22 April 2005, in Madrid. Discussions covered many aspects discussed in the EU Mercury strategy.

On 24 June 2005, the Environment Council drew conclusions concerning the EU strategy. The Council stressed the importance for an EU mercury export ban by 2011 and further underlined the importance of the actions proposed to be taken by the Commission. At the same time proposed a few additional issues, that should be addressed in view of reducing the releases and uses or mercury in the environment, such as mercury use in vaccines and gold mining, consider the social problems arising from the closure of mercury mines – rehabilitation of contaminated sites and community assistance and further tackling of emissions from fuel combustion.

The EU Strategy on Mercury was further discussed at the European Parliament.  The final text of the European Parliament’s resolution on the EU Mercury Strategy was adopted on 14 March 2006.

The actions from the EU mercury strategy started being implemented with EC proposals on relevant legislation, e.g. in Feb 2006, a proposal for the restriction of mercury in certain non-electrical and electronic equipment such as thermometers, and the proposal for an EU mercury export ban and storage

The Revised EU Mercury strategy was adopted on 7 December 2010. Input from the EEB/NGOs was provided all along.

EU Regulation on Mercury Export Ban and Storage

As in put to the proposed EU mercury export ban and storage regulation, on June 19th, 2006 the EEB organised a conference “EU Mercury surplus management and mercury-use restrictions in measuring and control equipment”, at the Goethe Institute, Brussels. The first part was dedicated to the storage options for mercury (part of the EC proposed regulation) and the second part to the debate on measuring devices containing mercury. The conference was attended by around 60 persons mainly representing different EU governments, as well as industry and environmental and health NGOs. The conference report is available here.

The EU Regulation 1102/2008 on Banning of exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures and the safe storage of metallic mercury was published on the Official Journal of the EC on the 22 October 2008.

Relevant work on measuring devices and lamps can be found under the relevant sections.