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Chinese Lanterns - The Dangers

31st December 2018

With New Year just around the corner and festive celebrations in full swing it can be tempting to celebrate with traditional fireworks and increasingly popular Chinese Lanterns.

Whilst the Chinese (or sky) lanterns might seem majestic lighting up the dark night skies, they actually pose a risk to our wildlife, farm animals and environment.

It’s easy to be tricked into thinking that Chinese Lanterns are relatively safe and not detrimental to our landscapes, especially when they are often advertised as “biodegradable”. Whilst the rice paper used on most Chinese lanterns may take days to biodegrade this is only once it gets wet. The remaining string and bamboo will take far longer to biodegrade, assuming it hasn’t already landed in a field and been turned into cattle feed.

The threats posed to wildlife can be fairly severe, if the sharper points of the lanterns are ingested, they can tear stomach linings, puncture throats and internal organs resulting in a slow and painful death, especially for birds that see the wires on the ground as a food source. There’s also the risk of entrapment to an animal, with reported cases of barn owls becoming trapped in the wire frame and starving to death.

Of course there is the obvious risk these pose, in effect Chinese lanterns are unattended, paraffin fuelled, paper bags of fire and what goes up, must eventually come back down.

Combine the burning flames with a tinder dry field of hay, a thatched roof or a barn store and it’s a bonfire waiting to happen. This in turn poses a loss of earnings to farmers, death of livestock and in worse case scenarios loss of life too.

To make celebrations safer it’s worth considering alternatives to lantern releases, such as night-lights, stationary candles, outdoor lighting and static lanterns. Start the New Year off with an environmentally friendly bang.


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