Nitrous oxide no laughing matter for waste incineration firms

A laughing gas seller in Amsterdam on Kings Day. Photo:

Exploding laughing gas canisters are causing so many problems at waste incineration plants that rubbish disposal taxes may rise, according to the Dutch waste industry lobby groups.

Since the ban on sales of laughing gas to the public in 2023, the canisters no longer carry deposits and that means they end up instead either dumped or in ordinary waste. Any gas left inside them explodes when the canisters are put in incinerators and this is causing millions of euros worth of damage and are putting staff at risk, the waste disposal companies say.

The total could be as much as €150 million a year, the Telegraaf reported on Thursday.

In Haarlemmermeer, for example, the cost of processing unrecyclable waste has doubled to €2 million and that means a increase of several tens of euros on each domestic bill, a spokesman said.

Boris van der Ham from the waste processors association Vereniging Afvalbedrijven told the paper that Amsterdam, Alkmaar and Rotterdam waste incinerators are faced with the most serious problems and that AEB in Amsterdam is spending €20 million a year dealing with damage and the subsequent loss of income.

“But it is an issue nationwide,” he said. “People just chuck them away.”

The infrastructure ministry, he said, is aware of the problem but is not working towards finding a solution. Before laughing gas was placed on the banned drugs list, a canister carried a deposit of €30.

Last year the AEB introduced a premium of €10, then €5 for every laughing gas cylinder that was handed in and was such as success that 80,000 empty canisters were brought back. The experiment was stopped after five months because of the cost, and because the explosions were continuing.

“We can’t keep going like this, our people are being affected,” AEB account manager Edward Iemenschot said. “The canisters have to be taken out. It is as simple as that.”

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