Eliminating harmful substances from production processes

The mercury-cell process is one of the three manufacturing processes used by the chlor-alkali sector to produce chlorine and caustic soda, which are both essential building blocks for a number of other chemicals and applications. However, this process leads to the release of mercury, exposure to which can be harmful to human health and the environment.

The EU chlor-alkali industry had recognised the need to control mercury emissions long before any government regulations were put in place. European industry has been monitoring and developing methods to reduce emissions and shift to other production methods since the 1970s, which resulted in a considerable reduction of mercury emissions over time. The European chlor-alkali industry also made a public voluntary commitment to phase out mercury by 2020 at the latest by converting all operations to mercury-free technologies. In 2016, mercury-emitting technology accounted for only 17% of the EU chlorine production capacity. Whilst EU law was set in 2013 to phase out mercury-based chlor-alkali production by 2017, chlorine producers on the continent phased out this technology well in advance and are now safely treating the remaining mercury waste material.

Associated SDG targets

SDG Good Health and Well-being

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The interface between chemical, product and waste legislation

The European chemical industry supports the transition towards a circular economy as part of a strategy to make Europe more resource efficient.As more and more products and materials need to be recycled, the big questions emerge: How should we manage the presence of chemicals of concern in a circular economy? How do we ensure that hazardous substances are safely removed from the “loop” and do not end up in recycled material?

Our journey to sustainability

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