The government has imposed a control system to oversee the trade in mercury - a neurotoxin which can cause serious health problems – but has stopped short of an immediate outright ban.
Subject to approval by the Federal Environmental Office, exports of mercury dental amalgam will be permitted until the end of 2027, a government statement said.
The deadline for other mercury exports, for electric discharge lamps and welding machines, was set for the end of 2020.
The measures are aimed at withdrawing recycled mercury from the global market and storing it safely, according to the statement.
Wednesday’s decision came despite calls by a network of European environmental organisations to impose an outright ban on mercury exports, in line with the European Union.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)external link urged the Swiss government not to give in to commercial pressure, otherwise the country would remain the weak link in efforts to outlaw mercury flows from Europe to the rest of the world.
“If Switzerland wants to be the flag bearer for the [Minamata] Convention, it needs to show exemplary leadership,” the EEB said in statement on Tuesday.
At the beginning of October, member countries of the Minamata Convention on Mercuryexternal link held their first conference in the Swiss city of Geneva in an effort to reduce mercury pollution. Geneva was also made the headquarters of the environmental watchdog.
Switzerland, - an important legal trader in mercury and recycler - ratified the convention in May 2016.