Possession of nitrous oxide, commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, was this week made illegal in the UK. The drug has been classified as a class C drug due to its harmful effects on users’ health and its contribution to anti-social behaviour.
The ban was initially proposed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government in March and is now enforced under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. This move is part of a broader campaign against lawlessness before the upcoming general election. Those found guilty of repeated offences may face up to two years in prison, while dealers could be sentenced to up to 14 years.
Richard Hulland (pictured), Chief Risk and Assurance Officer, Veolia UK, comments: “We welcome the recent change in the law as pressurised laughing gas canisters present a serious environmental and safety risk if incorrectly disposed of costing us up to £1.4 million in just the last year.
“The waste treatment industry has suffered directly, as the explosive nature of the canisters means that collection vehicles, recycling and waste facilities are all at risk of damage if they are disposed of in household or street litter bins. Veolia has experienced around 25 serious incidents of explosions and damages at energy recovery facilities since January 2023 due to discarded canisters.
“We encourage all residents, where possible, to dispose of these metals at your local recycling centre to be recycled.
“In addition to the risk they pose to staff’s health, these canisters also represent a real environmental risk, as nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas almost 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. In addition to the financial damage, the explosions also prevented the production of 380 MWh of electricity for the National Grid due to the shutdown of the plant, the equivalent of 21,000 homes being without power for two days.”
Introducing the ban on nitrous oxide possession is hoped to tackle this growing problem.