A campaign was launched on 29th May 2014 by the National Outdoor Events Association to ban Sky Lanterns, also known as Chinese Lanterns. Is the organisation being a killjoy? Its chief executive officer Susan Tanner, who is based in Somerset, says no and explains why.
- Try telling a farmer who has just watched his cow give birth early and die in agony after wire ripped the animal’s gut that Sky Lanterns are beautiful and should be allowed.
- Or the farmer who has spent hours rounding up the livestock startled by the sudden light which ran into fences resulting injuries.
- Or the firefighters injured tackling a blaze caused by one of these balls of fire. The list of issues goes on.
The problem is yes they look lovely as they float away into the sky but the issue is that no-one knows where they land – will it be into a field or a building.
The ancient Chinese decorations, which are supposed to bring good luck, first became popular in Britain a couple of years ago among tourists who had enjoyed their beauty on holiday to the Far East.
The paper balloons, which can float up to a mile into the air when the candle-like fuel cell is lit, are constructed with metal wire.
The idea is that the fire will go out by the time the lanterns come back to earth, but they often come down when the lantern is still burning.
The paper can degrade in about six to eight weeks. But the wire in them can last nine months and is of a fine gauge with sharp ends. There are some without wire that use cane, wool or string – but these still take time to degrade and can splinter which could cause issues for livestock and littering.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Photo
There is evidence that their use has caused moorland or forest fires at certain times of year when vegetation and weather conditions have made sites vulnerable to fire.
- Numerous cases have been reported where hay and straw stacks have caught fire as a result of lanterns landing when the cell is still alight. In a particularly, dry year there is a risk also of standing crops catching fire.
- In a nationwide survey in 2011, a third of Britain’s fire brigades said they had received emergency callouts to extinguish lanterns. The lanterns are at their most dangerous in the summer because of drier conditions.
- The fire risk extends beyond farm buildings and crops to all buildings.
In 2013 eleven firefighters were injured and £6million of damage was caused when more than 100,000 tonnes of waste plastic and paper went up in flames at a recycling plant at Smethwick West Midlands.
- There have been examples of cattle and sheep eating the lanterns and wire. This has caused injury to stomachs and mouths. Chopped wire can stay in the rumen (the cows stomach) for a long time and the wire can catch on anything at any time and perforate the gut. There have been several further cases of cows dying from ingested wire in the last 12 months.
- Farmers cutting grass for stock feed or bedding can gather wire and other lantern parts in the grass, which in turn is fed or used as bedding for stock.
- Even though some parts are biodegradable they do remain on view either on the ground, in trees and hedges, which is an eyesore.
It is an offence to create litter and it is distressing for landowners/farmers who find dozens of lanterns have landed over a small area, (especially, for instance, if it’s a field due for imminent harvest). It is also difficult to recover them from trees.
It is obvious when a venue upwind has released significant numbers of lanterns, and it does leave the venue at risk of a civil claim for any damage caused.
The Marine Conservation Society last year called for a ban after a survey of beaches found an increase in rubber, paper and pieces of metal. The charity wants the lanterns to be classed as litter so people releasing them could be fined as much as £2,500, arguing that they are a danger to marine life, among other things.
Not forgetting how they can be confused with distress flares and the danger of lanterns being sucked into plane engines while airborne.
However, much of the above comes from anecdotal evidence; I know from personal experience as soon as you raise lanterns as a topic of conversation that everyone knows a story.
We need hard evidence to back our call for a ban. In the interim we are asking event organisers to abide by a voluntary ban and for the public to understand the wider issues.
More information is on our website and you can also sign our petition for a Parliamentary debate. www.noea.org.uk
Michael Eavis issues no Chinese lanterns reminder – June 2013
Michael Eavis issued a reminder in 2013 to people coming to Glastonbury Festival that Chinese lanterns were banned. Click on the link below:-