Learn about the dangers of sky lanterns

Sky lanterns_48045

Sky lanterns are usually used in Britain to mark special celebrations such as weddings, parties and New Year. However, are you aware of the dangers they can cause?

Essentially a small hot air balloon made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a candle is suspended, sky lanterns, or Chinese lanterns as they’re also known, can float for miles before they fall to the ground, causing a danger to animals and a fire hazard. Not just litter, but burning litter – it’s time to ground sky lanterns for good.

The NFU welcomed the introduction of a sky lanterns code of practice in 2014, and we continue to call for an outright ban. The following list highlights the councils who have recognised the dangers of sky lanterns, and introduced a ban.

What are the risks?

Litter nuisance
Farmers and other landowners have to clear up the remnants of sky lanterns from their fields. Don’t be fooled by bamboo lanterns marked ‘biodegradable’ – they can still take decades to degrade.

Once a sky lantern is lit, nobody knows exactly where it will land. Fields of standing crops, hay and straw stacks, farm buildings housing animals, thatched roofs plus lots more are all at a significant risk of being set alight.

Wistanswick barn blaze_38609

Animals and Livestock
Sky lanterns can cause suffering or even kill animals and livestock. Not just by fire, sky lantern debris can cause immense stress and injury.  Some of the key dangers are:

  • Animals eating lantern debris which can cause tears or punctures to internal organs leading to a potentially life-threatening situation
  • Animals getting splinters in their skin which may cause infection
  • Animals becoming trapped or tangled in debris
  • Frames of lanterns can contaminate crops which are then unknowingly fed to animals. 

False alarms
Sky lanterns pose a significant danger to aviation traffic such as planes and helicopters. There are concerns that lanterns can be drawn into aircraft engines and can delay take-off and landing.  In addition, lanterns drifting across a night sky are also commonly mistaken by the public and coast guards for marine distress signals.

True stories from farmers affected by sky lanterns

Tony and Sue Robinson_26096

Beef and arable farming couple Tony and Sue Robinson from Coolham, West Sussex experienced a mass landing of 28 sky lanterns on their farm in 2013 and are urging people not to release them.

They believe they were lucky to escape a fire, given many sky lanterns had landed alight, scorching the ground around them.

Sue Robinson said: “All we want is for people to be aware of what could happen and we hope we will dissuade people from releasing sky lanterns. If this had happened three weeks earlier, during the dry weather, we could have had a major fire here as many lanterns landed in fields that were earlier growing corn. By the burn marks, many were still alight on landing. One landed yards from our supplies of winter straw and feed for the cattle.”

“These lanterns are not romantic or glamorous - they are in fact dangerous and they’re litter. I believe it is an offence to litter. Bamboo framed lanterns, like the ones that landed on our farm, do pose a fire risk and they could be dangerous to livestock.”

The couple, who have a herd of Sussex cattle, have written to their MP, Nick Herbert, making him aware of the problems sky lanterns cause. They have also written to the three parish councils of Thakeham, West Chiltington, Shipley & Coolham, asking the councils to discourage the release of sky lanterns.

Which councils have banned sky lanterns?

Several councils have backed the campaign and banned the release of sky lanterns on council owned land. 

North East
  • Calderdale Borough Council
  • Hartlepool Borough Council
  • Kirklees Borough Council
North West
  • Bolton Borough Council
  • Carlisle City Council
  • Cheshire East Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Lancaster City Council
  • Oldham Borough Council
  • Rochdale Borough Council
  • Salford City Council
  • Stockport Borough Council
  • Tameside Borough Council
  • Trafford Borough Council
  • Wirral Borough Council
  • Anglesey (Ynys Môn)
  • Blaenau Gwent 
  • Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr)
  • Caerphilly (Caerffili)
  • Cardiff (Caerdydd)
  • Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)
  • Ceredigion
  • Conwy 
  • Denbighshire (Sir Ddinbych)
  • Flintshire (Sir y Fflint)
  • Gwynedd
  • Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful)
  • Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)
  • Neath Port Talbot (Castell-nedd Port Talbot)
  • Newport (Casnewydd)
  • Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)
  • Powys
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf 
  • Swansea (Abertawe)
  • Torfaen (Tor-faen)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg)
  • Wrexham (Wrecsam)
West Midlands
  • Bromsgrove District Council
  • Dudley Borough Council
  • Herefordshire Council
  • Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council
  • Sandwell Borough Council
  • Shropshire Council
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • Staffordshire Moorlands District Council
  • Warwickshire County Council
  • Worcester City Council
  • Worcestershire County Council
East Midlands
  • Lincoln City Council
  • Newark & Sherwood District Council
  • Nottinghamshire County Council
East Anglia
  • Braintree District Council
  • Broadland District Council
  • Colchester Borough Council
  • Essex County Council
  • Great Yarmouth Borough Council
  • Ipswich Borough Council
  • Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council
  • Maldon District Council
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Norwich City Council
  • Rochford District Council
  • Suffolk Coastal District Council
  • Suffolk County Council
  • Waveney District Council
South East
  • Canterbury City Council
  • Chesham Town Council
  • Dover District Council
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Isle of Wight Council
  • Lewes District Council
  • Lewisham
  • Maidstone Borough Council
  • Milton Keynes Council
  • Oxford City Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Reigate & Banstead Borough Council
  • Redbridge
  • Shepway District Council
  • Swale Borough Council
  • Thanet District Council
  • Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council
  • Vale of White Horse District Council
  • Wandsworth
  • West Berkshire Council
  • West Oxfordshire District Council
  • Winchester City Council
  • Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council
South West
  • Cheltenham Borough Council
  • Cornwall Council
  • Forest of Dean District Council
  • Gloucester City Council
  • Mid Devon District Council
  • North Dorset District Council
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Poole Borough Council
  • South Hams District Council
  • Swindon Borough Council
  • West Dorset District Council
  • Weymouth & Portland Borough Council

If you know that your local council has implemented a ban, but isn't on a list, please let us know by dropping our campaigns team an email.

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Related categories: Sky lanterns

Last edited:21 August 2019 at 08:43

Have your say

Kathleen Barnes - 25/10/2019 16:35:34

These lanterns should be banned

Julie gearing - 15/08/2019 13:16:40

Should be banned totally.

Gillian Clement - 05/04/2019 23:52:56

I agree with Patsy Alcock. Fireworks are also a menace when they are repeatedly let off over a period of days, sometimes weeks. There should be an allocated Saturday nearest to 5th November when only organised events are allowed displays. That way pet owners will know when to keep thier animals indoors.

Matthew Waddington - 30/03/2019 09:35:31

They can look beautiful. For a few minutes. But not worth the damage done to wildlife, livestock & property. They need to be banned.

Patsy Alcock - 28/03/2019 20:18:53

Not only do sky lanterns want banning but fireworks should be confined to organised displays and advertised locally so that those people whose animals are scared of them are forewarned.

Jane Neatrour - 08/02/2019 21:28:12

Ban these dangerous lanterns

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