EcoWaste pushes sound management of mercury wastes

Published August 16, 2020, 1:06 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition on Sunday appealed to all stakeholders to come up with concrete measures on the sound management of mercury wastes, especially that certain mercury-added products are set to be phased out globally by the end of this year.

EcoWaste Coalition

“There is a pressing need to speed up efforts to build our country’s capacity to treat mercury wastes and store mercury in the long term considering the 2020 global phase-out deadline for certain mercury-added products. This is a key deadline in the treaty, and could mean loads of mercury to be stabilized, stored, or disposed of,” said EcoWaste Coalition’s chemical safety campaigner Thony Dizon said.

The group made the appeal in time for the third anniversary of the historic entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury on Aug. 16, 2017.

“Among other things, we need to put a stop to the improper disposal of products known to contain mercury such as burning mercury-laden contraband cosmetics or dumping mercury lamp waste, which can release their mercury content into the environment, harm our workers, and contaminate the food chain,” he pointed out.   

By the end of this year, parties to the Minamata Convention are required to cease the manufacture, import, and export of many mercury-containing products listed in the convention.

These include batteries, switches and relays, specific types of lamps, cosmetics, pesticides, biocides, and topical antiseptics, and certain types of non-electronic measuring devices such as thermometers and sphygmomanometers.  

“We support policies and regulations that will require companies that manufacture, import, distribute, or sell mercury-added products to take them back at the end of their useful life and to ensure that these are not incinerated, landfilled, or reprocessed in facilities that are not able to safely manage their mercury content,” Dizon said. 

“While the government has delayed the phase-out deadline for some of the targeted products by 2022, as per the revised Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds, it must be emphasized that the ban on mercury use in cosmetics such as skin whitening creams, pesticides, and medical devices has long been in place and will remain in effect,” he pointed out.

Citing the Environmental Management Bureau, EcoWaste confirmed that “mercury added-products that were already banned by other government agencies shall remain banned and not covered by the 2022 phase-out schedule.” 

President Duterte ratified on June 2, 2020 the Minamata Convention, a global treaty that seeks to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic releases of mercury and its compounds.  

The instrument of ratification was deposited to the United Nations on July 8, 2020, making the Philippines the 123rd party to the treaty named after the infamous Minamata Bay decades-long mercury poisoning tragedy.  

The convention will enter into force for the Philippines on Oct. 6, in accordance with Article 31 (2) of the treaty, according to the United Nations.