Tens of thousands of nitrous oxide 'nos' cannisters were found in Epsom and Ewell parks last week alone according to the council (EEBC).

Pictures seen by the Comet showed thousands of cannisters recovered from a number of parks in Epsom on a single day, with council authorities alleging many thousands more were recovered on similar day-long sweeps.

A council spokesperson told the Comet on Thursday (June 18) that "by weight we estimate the quantity to be over 25,000 of the little canisters collected in a week.

"The downskeepers are having to spend at least an hour a day on collecting these, ie almost a full working day each week is being devoted to this rather than the duties they should be doing."

Nitrous oxide or laughing gas has a number of practical uses including as an acute painkiller in hospitals and to help energy efficiency in cars.

It's also popular to use recreationally with balloons, though supplying nos to others for recreational use is illegal.

The colourless gas is sometimes transferred from the canister into a balloon and then inhaled, with the empty vessels thrown to the ground that can often have a negative impact on the environment.

Nitrous oxide is meanwhile a greenhouse gas that contributes to the climate emergency.

"The balloons especially can be mistaken for food by mammals and birds with horrible consequences," Councillor Barry Nash said of the habit and its impact on Epsom and Ewell.

"With so many people recently benefiting from our open green spaces to exercise and having contact with the natural world during lockdown, I’m saddened that a minority have no respect for others or for nature," he added.