Understanding the Mercury Export Ban Act

Understanding the Mercury Export Ban Act

On October 14, 2008, the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 (MEBA) was signed  into law. This law’s intent was to protect the millions of workers around the globe that are exposed to mercury in countries without health and environmental standards by reducing the market availability of elemental mercury.

Prior to the enactment of this law, the United States was one of the world’s leading net exporters of mercury. In fact, according to the United States Geological Survey, the United States “exported 506 metric tons of elemental mercury more than the United States imported during the period of 2000 through 2004.” As such, it is quite clear that banning elemental mercury exports from the United States will significantly diminish market availability, and ideally trigger a transition to safer mercury alternatives.

The Mercury Export Ban of 2008 is made up of multiple provisions, but it principally works by prohibiting the transfer of elemental mercury by federal agencies (with some exceptions), it banned U.S. export of mercury as of 2013, and by requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide for the long-term storage of any domestically generated surplus of elemental mercury.

As of January 1, 2013, storage of elemental mercury had been approved at a small number of commercially operated, RCRA-permitted facilities until the Department of Energy has designated and/or constructed a long-term storage facility. It is also important to remember, however, that, according to the EPA, the “DOE has indicated that elemental mercury to be stored at the DOE facility or facilities must be of a purity of 99.5 percent or greater by volume,” and that that elemental mercury in question needs to have been generated within the borders of the United States. The long-term storage provisions apply to any generator, whether it is a public organization, private company, or individual.

For generators and recyclers, MEBA has another important implication. Treatment for mercury-contaminated waste types has been subject to higher prices as of January 1, 2013. If you have further questions about how to dispose of mercury-contaminated material, mercury devices, orelemental mercury get in touch with ECOFLO at this link.