Clean and circular electronics: Commission ends use of mercury in lamps

The Commission has adopted a package of rules ending a broad range of existing exemptions for the use of mercury in lamps. Under EU rules restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive), electronics that contain mercury cannot be placed on the market, except if time-limited and application-specific exemptions are granted by the Commission. Most of these exemptions for general lighting will be discontinued as assessments conducted by the Commission since 2016 concluded that safe, mercury-free alternatives are widely available for fluorescent lamps. The new rules aim to increase the protection of health and the environment from this hazardous substance, as well as boost innovation and promote cleaner products. Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Chemicals are part and parcel of our daily life, and they allow us to develop innovative solutions to green our economy. But we need to make sure that chemicals are produced and used in a way that does not damage human health and the environment. It is especially important to stop using the most harmful chemicals, like mercury, in everyday consumer products, such as lamps. Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “Mercury-free lamps exist and should take over. With these new rules to phase out mercury, the EU shows determination to protect health and the environment and promote industrial innovation in achieving our circular economy and zero pollution ambitions. Nearly 3 tonnes of mercury – one of the most harmful chemicals ever – will never be used and more energy efficient non-toxic alternatives to billions of lamps will be gradually deployed.” On a case-by-case basis, transition periods of 12 and 18 months will be granted to allow economic operators to adjust to the new rules. Exemptions will be allowed only for few specialised applications, such as for medical use. For more information, please consult our news item.