A recent report from Environment Canada says the federal government is unprepared to deal with the challenges posed by the disposal of compact fluorescent lamps.

Each CFL contains a small amount of mercury, which can add up to big environmental challenges when incandescent bulbs are phased out across Canada next January.

'One fluorescent lamp can contaminate a small lake — that's 22 milligrams of mercury in it — that's how dangerous and poisonous mercury is.' —Dana Emerson, VP Dan-X Recycling

Dana Emerson, vice-president of Dan-X Recycling Ltd. in Dartmouth, says his company has made a big investment in keeping mercury out of the environment.

The company's $300,000 machine can safely break down the energy-efficient bulbs into their component parts — metal and glass for recycling, and mercury that is then stored safely for disposal in Ontario.

"We could do at least 2,000 lamps per hour, and we could have the opportunity to do two shifts a day if we had the regulations in place," Emerson said.

"We could do all Nova Scotia, all New Brunswick, we could do P.E.I. and Newfoundland — whatever they ship us, we could handle here at this processor."

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Each CFL contains a small amount of mercury, which can add up to big environmental challenges when incandescent bulbs are phased out across Canada next January. (Associated Press)

Right now, most CFLs end up in the landfill, which poses a threat to water supplies.

"One fluorescent lamp can contaminate a small lake," said Emerson. "That's 22 milligrams of mercury in it — that's how dangerous and poisonous the mercury is."   

Emerson said the problem with disposal is supply. At the moment, the public can drop off CFLs at local hardware chains, but collecting them takes an organized system.

"Regulations, we need some regulations put in place," he said.

Emerson said he would like to cooperate with Nova Scotia's system of Enviro Depots to get mass quantities of bulbs through his door.

But with no decisions from government at any level, the bulbs keep going into the ground.

"We need to know," he said, "But right now we're in limbo, just waiting."

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau said he can't act because he is waiting for the federal regulations on CFLs to be put in place.  

Those regulations are expected this spring. All provinces will then have a chance to provide feedback.