While sky lanterns may look nice as they drift up into the sky, it’s important to remember that they are essentially open flame balloons floating wherever the wind may take them.
What are sky lanterns?
Also known as a Chinese lantern, a sky lantern is a lightweight wire or bamboo frame surrounded by paper and an open flame which causes the lantern to float, basically a miniature hot air balloon.
Are sky lanterns banned in the UK?
For the moment, sky lanterns are not banned in England or Scotland. Their use has been banned on council land in Wales since February 2018 and the RSPCA is asking for England to implement the same ban. While their use has been banned in parts of England, the ban is not yet nationwide.
Can sky lanterns cause fires?
In addition to the serious problems sky lanterns pose to animal welfare, they are also a fire hazard not just to wildlife habitats but also to farm buildings. Fire services have issued warnings to people about the fire risk following incidents such as the Smethwick recycling plant fire.
Why does the RSPCA want sky lanterns to be banned?
- Sky lanterns present a hazard to animal welfare for numerous reasons. Lanterns can come down in fields where they are ingested by grazing animals.
- The lanterns can also fall into fields where the frames are chopped into silage and hay during harvest. Small needle-like splinters then enter the animals’ feed where they can cause internal bleeding and great pain.
- There is also the risk of animals becoming entangled in frames and then injuring themselves as they panic and attempt to get themselves free.
Can you still buy sky lanterns?
An estimated 200,000 sky lanterns are sold and released each year in the UK. As their popularity has grown over recent years, so too has the devastating effect they cause to wildlife and the environment.
What happens to sky lanterns when they burn out?
As long as they stay in their upright position, sky lanterns will burn out and only fall to earth once they are extinguished. However, if they are tilted in the air due to wind currents or knocking into something, the paper around the frame can catch alight and pose a serious fire risk. A risk that has caused damage to property and also animal life.
Are biodegradable lanterns an environmentally-friendly alternative?
Not really. Materials like bamboo are sometimes used instead of wire and the sky lanterns are marketed as biodegradable but it can take decades for these products to degrade and the fire risk is still present.