Mercury is a highly toxic substance.   The Government is proposing to strengthen its controls on mercury by introducing a permitting system for trade in mercury, and prohibit the sale, manufacture, import and export of certain products containing mercury.

This consultation covers two key steps New Zealand needs to take to ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  These two steps are – introducing a permitting system for trade in mercury, and prohibiting the manufacture, import and export of certain products containing mercury.

What you need to know:

  • Mercury is a highly toxic substance, which has serious effects on human health and on the environment. The presence of mercury in the environment is a global problem as mercury can readily enter and be widely transported through the atmosphere, oceans and the food chain. It accumulates in the food chain. Consuming food with mercury in it is a major source of exposure to mercury for both people and some animals.
  • The Ministry is proposing to ban the import and export of pure mercury and a ban on the import and export manufacture and sales of products containing mercury.
  • Currently products containing mercury can be collected and sent to a factory in Australia for recycling with a Basel permit. This will still be allowed under the proposed changes.

What commonly used products currently containing mercury will be affected?

  • Some types of batteries
  • Switches and relays
  • Some types of lighting – including compact fluorescent lamps

See page 13 of the consultation document here for more detail.

Many of these products are being phased out, but particularly for commercial lighting as they are replaced they will generate a significant amount of waste.

The Ministry for the Environment is proposing that the Waste Minimisation Act be used to ban the manufacture and sales of products containing mercury. Yet they are not proposing that any product stewardship scheme be set up to ensure that they are recycled or disposed of safely at end of life.

When does the consultation close?

05 August at 5pm

Following review of submissions, recommendations will be made to the Ministry for the Environment.  Regulations are expected to be completed by mid-2021.

Should I make a submission?

 If you think that products containing mercury should be recycled and disposed of safely at end of life, you may wish to make a submission.  To make a submission please follow this link or if you have questions, or prefer to email your submission, please use this email address   minamataconsultation@mfe.govt.nz