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How to Make Sure Your NOS Habit Isn’t Trashing the Earth

Sam Nichols

I tried recycling my spent canisters.

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia, where they call NOS "nangs" for some reason

About a month ago, I wrote an article about how nangs are unrecyclable. Some of you liked it, and some of you told me I was full of shit because your dad knows a bloke who recycles nangs, or something. But the fact remains that every year in Australia, some 10-15 tonnes of galvanised steel bulbs end up landfill, despite the fact they’re made of fully recyclable steel. And because nangs are largely consumed by an environmentally-literate festival-loving crowd, the situation has an ugly inconsistency about it.

But in saying that, I realise I didn't offer any solutions. And that’s a pretty poor move on my end, and especially when festival season is starting to move into full swing.

So with my journalistic integrity on the line, I decided to see if there was actually a way to get nang bulbs recycled. And I’ll tell you, it wasn't easy.

I started by calling every scrap metal dealer, metal recycler, metal-related business, gas-affiliated thing, and even a bunch of local councils around Victoria, but not one of them would take the canisters. And although every single excuse was subtly different, it all came down to the same thing. Basically there was no efficient way to ensure nangs are empty. Because as all metal needs to be crushed to be recycled, highly pressurised bulbs of gas pose a pretty serious threat. And recyclers aren’t willing to crush nangs, even if it looks like they’re empty.

“There’s cost and and then there’s effort,” explained a guy named Chino at Inner City Recycling, a local scrap metal dealership in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford. "There’s a cost to have someone do the labour required to cut them open. And what you get out of it, at the end of the day, isn’t much.”

“[These nangs] are worth absolutely nothing. They’re about about five cents a kilo. A tonne of steel gets you about $120-$130. So all the companies, from the small to the big don’t accept them, because it’s just not worth it.”

From speaking to Chino, it became clear that no amount of arguing or bartering was going to get him to accept my stockpile of used nangs, unless I could assure him that they were empty. So I set out to do just that.

If you want to be able to cut open nangs, you’ll need tools. On first glance, an angle grinder seems good, but that isn’t true. Angle grinders are sketchy, let alone on a little nang. And if you’re producing sparks on a pressurised canister it’ll blow up in your face. So a saw will do just fine. I bought one from my local hardware store for $20 although I also discovered that a drill also does the job. Then cutting open nangs was a pretty simple process. A friend and I got through 30 in about 45 minutes.

Then we went back to Chino at Inner City Recycling with my empty nangs, and next thing I knew they were in a blue bin with a bunch of other scrap metal. I didn’t get a single cent unfortunately, as Chino told me they weren't worth jack shit, but at least I knew the steel was going to be reused. And hey, that’s exactly what I intended to do.

So look, if there’s anything to take from this article, it’s that nangs are fun, but they’re probably the most resource-indulgent drug on the planet. Imagine the amount of energy it takes to isolate nitrous oxide, compress it, and jam it into a disposable steel bulb—which comes with its own lengthy chain of resource-heavy production. And every part of that process needs to be repeated every time someone wants a hit, unless they're willing to cut open some nangs.

So maybe buy a $20 hacksaw and give your local scrap metal dealer a call before your next kick on.

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