Binmen are facing the threat of bins blowing up in their faces because of the boom in people inhaling “hippy crack”.
Waste companies say they are growing “increasingly concerned” after seeing a jump in the number of gas canisters, such as laughing gas cans, being put in rubbish bins – some up to 2kg in weight.
Bosses say the “growing wave” is becoming a problem for binmen as they explode when processed, and can cause devastating injuries for workers.
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Since the start of the year up to 50 gas canisters are being cleared every single day from bins, whereas before seeing one would be a “very rare occurrence.”
A Biffa spokesman said: “Over the past few months there has been a significant increase in the number of pressurised 2kg nitrous oxide canisters entering our waste streams, which can cause injuries if pierced.”
And Cory, another waste company from Wandsworth, London, added: “When they come in, we isolate them, secure them, weigh them and take them to the civil amenities site where they have a collection point for them. We can’t have them here.”
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The hippy crack craze sees nitrous oxide gas installed into small canisters, before being placed into small balloons, and then inhaled to get high.
The sale of nitrous oxide for its psychoactive effects was made illegal after the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, but it is not a crime to be caught in possession of the gas.
Dr Tim Rotheray, a Viridor director, said: “As the summer season is in full swing, the waste management sector sees an increasing number of gas bottles being thrown out as general waste. Even if they are empty, these gas bottles explode when they go through the facility.
“The explosion causes a risk to both local air pollution and the health and safety of those who make sure our bins are taken away and processed safely every day”.
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