Today, Viridor launches a public information campaign across four south London boroughs to raise awareness of nitrous oxide canisters and their impact on local waste management.
In recent months thousands of ‘creamer canisters’ have arrived at the Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) mixed in with household waste. Many are intercepted, but any canisters that do go through the waste treatment process can explode potentially causing minor damage, risks to the safety of staff and increased maintenance.
Intended for use in the catering industry, nitrous oxide (commonly known as laughing gas) is increasingly being used for recreational purposes. The gas is inhaled from a balloon and stored in canisters. Until recently these tended to be single-use canisters the size of a bullet, which could pass through the ERF without incident. In recent months however, it has become clear that people are increasingly buying and disposing of much larger canisters, approximately the size of a 2-litre water bottle. It is these super-sized canisters that are causing operational challenges for the ERF.
Viridor is calling for residents or commercial users of these canisters to not place them in their bins but to check the label carefully and recycle or dispose of them responsibly.
Viridor’s ‘Leave it Out’ campaign, featuring ‘Noxie’ the naughty nitrous oxide canister, aims to help educate residents in south London about the importance of disposing of these canisters in a safe and sustainable way. The campaign will be supported by the four South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) boroughs (Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton) and will roll out across parks, at tram stations, newspapers and online in the coming months.
Dave O’Callaghan, Plant Manager for Viridor at Beddington said: “In recent months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of these much larger gas canisters coming to the Beddington ERF. Whilst the plant is designed to safely deal with a wide range of non-recyclable waste, when these canisters are processed, they can explode causing damage. We work around the clock to safely treat the non-recyclable waste from the South London Waste Partnership and have launched this campaign to raise awareness that these canisters are not designed to be processed by an ERF. Please do recycle them or dispose of them responsibly to help keep the team at the Beddington ERF safe.”
Cllr Natasha Irons, Chair of the South London Waste Partnership Joint Committee said: “This alarming increase in the recreational use of nitrous oxide is a concern on many levels. The health risks should not be under-estimated. In addition to that, any canisters that end up in general waste bins have the potential to damage waste treatment plants and pose a risk to the people who collect and treat our waste. We are lobbying central government for a ban on consumer sales of nitrous oxide, and we are working hard to make it easier for people with these canisters to recycle them. In the meantime, I would ask residents; if you have or see one of these canisters, please don’t put it in the bin. Check the label for recycling and disposal guidance and if you’re unsure, contact the retailer you purchased it from.”
Ellen Daniels, Chief Executive of the British Compressed Gases Association added: “We are deeply concerned by the rapid increase in the sale of these larger 600g nitrous oxide canisters and their impact on waste treatment facilities. Nitrous oxide has become the second most used substance among 16- to 24-year-olds, and we must come together to ensure that these canisters are not accessible to those in our communities that want to use this substance recreationally. The BCGA welcomes this campaign launch in south London. We are keen to work with partners, including those in the waste management sector, to raise awareness of the issue and work towards an effective solution.”
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