No joke: laughing gas ban has created ‘deadly waste hazard’

Laughing gas capsules dumped by the side of a road in Amsterdam. Photo:

Measures to dispose of laughing glass cylinders have turned the flasks into a potentially deadly hazard, waste processing industry body NVRD has warned.

The problem started when the use of the popular party drug laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, was banned at the start of this year without any system for disposing of the canisters, NVRD director Wendy de Wild told the AD.

A deposit system, where empty cylinders could be handed in to providers, was abandoned when the ban came into effect, resulting in dozens of potentially dangerous explosions as cylinders were thrown out with the household waste.

“It’s a miracle no one has been hurt, or worse,” De Wild said.

In the absence of government measures, waste processing companies have now decided the cylinders can be handed in at waste collection sites despite the illegal status of the drug.

“We have no other option,” De Wild told the paper. “We have been asking the government for a solution for the last eight months but nothing is happening. If the cylinders are handed in at the collection centres, at least that is safe,” she said.

At the same time, waste processors are not too optimistic about the temporary measure, as people may be wary of handing in evidence of illegal drug use.

Waste processors are also contemplating returning waste containing laughing gas cylinders to the local council and are preparing legal action against the government to force them to take measures and compensate companies for extra processing costs and damage to installations.

Waste processing body Afvalbedrijven Nederland estimates some 250,000 cylinders end up in household waste or in the environment, leading to damage to nature, disposal costs and risks to waste processors.

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