While this is a useful compilation and guidance document for countries, each government was advised to select with caution which are appropriate approaches depending on priorities, legal framework and enforcement, finances for implementation, perceived benefits, information and education on possible risks and exposures, among other factors.
In the Philippines, there was limited time to apply all these selection criteria which required more attention than what was currently available. Thus the recommendations herein were based on cursory knowledge of the situation in the Philippines without the benefit of further reflection, hence should be reviewed at another stage.
It is now possible to substitute mercury products with products without mercury as they are commercially available for almost all known applications. It was found in Denmark, USA, Canada and Sweden that users of mercury-containing products are faced with four main obstacles to the use of viable alternatives. These are the following:
The need for research and development, then patenting;
Higher costs and competition;
Access to and reactions to alternative techniques – even among equipment suppliers;
Internationally standardised measurements.
Notwithstanding the above obstacles, the substitution of products and processes containing or using mercury with products and processes without mercury has been proven to be powerful to deter the flow of mercury through the economy and environment. It may substantially reduce mercury in households, the environment, the waste stream, industrial emissions and landfills. Substitutions are mostly cost-effective including conversion of a fossil-fueled generating plant to a non-fossil technology.
UNEP suggests the following specific measures:
(a)Limiting or preventing use of mercury in products where alternatives exist and promoting development of appropriate alternatives for remaining essential uses;
(b)Limiting or preventing the intentional use of mercury except in artisanal mining activities until appropriate and affordable technology is transferred to the said sector;
(c)Limiting or preventing use of obsolete technology and requiring use of best available techniques and best environmental practices to reduce or prevent mercury releases into air and water;
(d) Gradual phasing-out of mercury already in use and mercury-containing products, after promoting the development of effective and affordable mercury substitutes and alternative technology.
More information is found in the references, especially from the Nordic Council of Ministers.