Discarded laughing gas canisters are becoming an increasingly familiar sight on our pavements and in our parks. These small steel bottles contain nitrous oxide or ‘laughing gas’ which has become a recreational drug of choice for party and festival-goers.
Nitrous oxide is a light anaesthetic in dentistry or to charge whipped cream aerosols. As a drug, the gas it provides is transferred from the canister into a balloon and inhaled. The high that users get is brief, so you’ll often find a large number of discarded canisters in the same place.
Why are laughing gas canisters so bad for the environment?
Despite being 100% steel which is recyclable, not all UK councils accept laughing gas canisters for recycling. Because of their design, they are unable to be reused, so they are often discarded as litter or put in the bin. Then they end up on landfill sites.
If the balloons end up as litter too, this is a double-whammy for the environment. They can take years to decompose, and even longer if they end up in waterways. This is what makes them harmful or even deadly to wildlife who might mistake them for food and ingest them.
What can you do when you find them?
If you've had enough of laughing gas canisters littering your street or local park, put on a pair of gloves and collect them. Check with your local council to see if you can recycle them. If they can not be processed with your curbside recycling, you might be able to take them to a household recycling centre.
How to recycle laughing gas canisters
Steel is completely recyclable. No matter many times you recycle metal, there is no reduction in quality. However, only 46% of steel is currently sent to recycling in the UK. This means that a lot of precious materials are going to waste. Recycling metals reduces the number of virgin metal ores needed to produce new metal.
If your local council doesn’t accept them for recycling, you can take the laughing gas canisters to a scrap metal yard. This way, you can recycle them and know that the metal will help create new products. And of course, you can make some money.
A tonne of scrap steel is currently going for hundreds of pounds. Although it might take you a while to collect a few thousand canisters, it could be a nice little earner.
If you’d like to read more tips and interesting articles on all things recycling, check out the rest of our blog.