A new public information campaign has been launched in Sutton to spread awareness of the dangers of laughing gas canisters and their impact on waste collection.

The campaign, Leave It Out, is a collaborative effort between Viridor and the South London Waste Partnership spanning across four London boroughs.

It emerged after the Beddington Energy Recovery Facility in Sutton witnessed thousands of canisters, which have added considerable strain to operating conditions.

These two-litre canisters can explode when processed at the facility causing huge damage.

Plant Manager for Viridor at Beddington Dave O’Callaghan said: "In recent months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of these much large gas canisters coming to the Beddington ERF, and whilst the plant is designed to safely process a wider range of non-recyclable waste.

"But when these cannisters 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 leave them by the side of your bins to help keep the team at Beddington safe.”

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is a drug inhaled through a balloon and medically used for sedation and pain relief.

However, lately there has been a reported spike in sales by the British Gases Association and is the second most commonly used substance amongst 16 to 24-year-olds.

Chief Executive of the Gases Association Ellen Daniels said: “We are deeply concerned by the rapid increase in the sale of these larger 600g nitrous oxide cannisters and their impact on the Beddington ERF.

"Nitrous oxide has become the second most commonly used substance among 16 to 24-year-olds, and we must come together to ensure that these cannisters are not accessible to those in our communities that want to use this substance recreationally."

Many of these cannisters are being discarded in waste bins by unsuspecting locals due to the lack of information displayed on the packaging of these potentially hazardous cannisters.

Viridor is advising residents and users of these cannisters to check the labels and recycle them and to avoid discarding them in waste bins to ensure the safety of the waste staff.

The campaign features Noxie, a caricaturised nitrous oxide canister to help educate people about the challenges of disposing these cannisters and how to sustainably dispose them.

The campaign will be rolled out in local public spaces including parks and tram stations to help raise awareness of the issue.

Ellen Daniels said: “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.”

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.”