A man from Beddington has decided to make decorations out of laughing cannisters that he found dumped along his local river - as a statement against their misuse.

Gervais Sawyer, 77, has collected 55 of these large nitros oxicde cylinders over the past year.

Most of them have been dumped along the River Wandle and picks them up to keep the area clean, and has recently begun machining them into decorations and items with new found purpose.

Gervais made two decorations for the festive season, one was a menorah for Chanukah and the other was a 2023 sign in roman numerals to welcome in the new year.

The 2023 sign can still be seen by the bridge over the Wandle at the bottom of Lavington Road in Beddington.

Gervais told Your Local Guardian: “If I can collect this number of cylinders locally just along a small stretch of bridle path, how many tones of cannisters are being used all over the country.

“The government sort of buries its head in the sand about this because it is a soft entrance to drug abuse.

“I think they should put a hefty deposit on the cylinders to make sure they are returned or recycled.

“It needs control of some sort – maybe it should only be sold to people who can prove their occupations but I’ll leave that to the politicians.”

Your Local Guardian: a 2023 sign in roman numerals to welcome in the new yeara 2023 sign in roman numerals to welcome in the new year (Image: Gervais S)

Gervais made the pieces with his daughter, who gave him some guidance how the decorations would come together.

He said he first came up with the idea “sometime in December after a good bottle a particularly good bottle of wine”.

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is a drug inhaled through a balloon.

It’s day-to-day use includes medical pain relief and in catering for things such as whipped cream.

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

Gervais decided the make the sculptures to show the sheer scale of the problem in the area.

He explained that it used to be the small gas-like bulbs which he would see on the ground, but these larger two-litre cannisters appear to be becoming more popular recently.

Gervais added: “Occasionally I have found more interesting things down that trail – guns, knives, jewellery, credit cards and I’ve managed to reunite some people with them.”

Your Local Guardian: he has collected 55 of these large nitros oxicde cylinders over the past yearhe has collected 55 of these large nitros oxicde cylinders over the past year (Image: Gervais S)

Viridor, the company in charge of the local incinerator, recently blamed these gas bottles for some of the incidents.

The cannisters can sometimes explode resulting in a spike in emissions.

In May and June, Your Local Guardian reported that the incinerator breached its emissions permit six times.

Recently Viridor launched a campaign named “Leave it out!” to spread awareness of the dangers of laughing gas canisters and their impact on waste collection.

This is a collaborative effort between Viridor and the South London Waste Partnership spanning across four London boroughs which encourages people to recycle the cannisters and not put them in their standard waste bin.

However, Gervais said: “It’s incredible that they don’t extract the metal from the waste before it goes into the furnace.

“The technology is there – heavens. It is easy stuff really.

“I don’t believe this campaign will make a difference.

“There is particular spot where the footpath meets the road and it is clearly quite an exciting spot because the cylinders are always left there – just dumped.”

He points out that the gas cannisters are often just discarded by the users and no attempt is to put them into any bin.

Gervais added that “tempers had been pretty high” in the community regarding the controversial incinerator.

A spokesperson for Viridor said: “Over recent months the Beddington ERF has seen a significant increase in the number of 2-litre nitrous oxide canisters in the waste we receive.

“These canisters should not be in household or general waste bins.

“Most of the canisters are taken out of the waste, and sent for recycling before they enter the ERF process.

“Any that are not stopped cause risks to the facility and the team working to deliver a vital service to about 1M residents of the South London Waste Partnership.

“In response Viridor has taken a three-pronged approach.

“We have been working with the South London Waste Partnership to explore alternative disposal points including at Household Reuse and Recycling Centres.

“Secondly we are implementing a trial of artificial intelligence cameras to detect gas bottles in the waste so that we can extract them before they go through the treatment process.

“Thirdly, we are working to inform local residents through the “Leave it Out!” campaign, which has been designed to raise awareness of the issue and encourage residents to think differently about these canisters.”