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Sky lanterns: More harm than celebration

Sky lanterns: More harm than celebration


Sky lanterns_44052
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 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.

If your council isn't on this list, you can join our campaign by: 

Remember to drop us an email Y2FtcGFpZ25zQG5mdS5vcmcudWs= to let us know who you’ve written to.

Councils who have banned sky lanterns

North East

  • Kirklees Borough Council
  • South Tyneside Borough Council

East Midlands

  • Lincoln City Council
  • Newark & Sherwood District Council
  • Nottinghamshire County Council
  • Rushcliffe Borough Council

West Midlands

  • Worcester City Council
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • Staffordshire Moorlands District Council
  • Warwickshire County Council
  • Herefordshire Council
  • Shropshire Council

South West

  • Plymouth City Council
  • Mid Devon District Council
  • Cornwall Council
  • South Hams District Council
  • Swindon Borough Council
  • West Dorset District Council
  • North Dorset District Council
  • Weymouth & Portland Borough Council

South East

  • Redbridge
  • Reigate & Banstead Borough Council
  • Canterbury City Council
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council
  • Winchester City Council
  • Wandsworth
  • Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Vale of White Horse District Council
  • Chesham Town Council
  • Isle of Wight Council
  • Swale Borough Council
  • West Oxfordshire District Council
  • Maidstone Borough Council
  • Wycombe District Council

North West

  • Bolton Borough Council
  • Oldham Borough Council
  • Stockport Borough Council
  • Tameside Borough Council
  • Trafford Borough Council
  • Cheshire East Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Carlisle City Council
  • Lancaster City Council

East Anglia

  • Great Yarmouth Borough Council
  • Maldon District Council
  • Ipswich Borough Council
  • Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council
  • Suffolk Coastal District Council
  • Thanet District Council
  • Rochford District Council
  • Essex County Council
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Suffolk County Council
  • Braintree District Council
  • Colchester Borough Council
  • Broadland District Council
  • Waveney District Council


  • Anglesey (Ynys Môn)
  • Cardiff (Caerdydd)
  • Blaenau Gwent )
  • Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin) )
  • Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr) )
  • Caerphilly (Caerffili) )
  • Ceredigion)
  • Conwy )
  • Denbighshire (Sir Ddinbych) )
  • Gwynedd)
  • Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy) )
  • Neath Port Talbot (Castell-nedd Port Talbot) )
  • Newport)
  • Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) )
  • Powys)
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf)
  • Torfaen (Tor-faen) )
  • Vale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg) )
  • Swansea (Abertawe)
  • Wrexham (Wrecsam)
  • Flintshire (Sir y Fflint)
  • Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council

Leading by example

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

Find out more how other councils are helping into spread awareness on the dangers.

If you know that your local council has implemented a ban, but isn't on a list, please let us know by dropping us an email at [email protected]

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.

Chinese lantern in field of cattleAnimals 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.

How else can you help?

Help us campaign to ban sky lanterns by:

True stories from farmers

Tony and Sue Robinson_26096Beef and arable farming couple Tony and Sue, from Coolham, West Sussex, experienced a mass landing of 28 sky lanterns on their farm. Read more. 

Hugh Lowe is a former NFU Kent county chairman who has retired and now lives in Dorset. In 1949 when Hugh started work as a farm-pupil they lost some livestock from ingesting pieces of wire from the V1 Flying Bombs. Read more.

What do you think?

Have you experienced any incidents of sky lanterns causing harm?  
Do you have any suggestions of other ways to mark a celebration instead of using sky lanterns? We want to hear from you, email Y2FtcGFpZ25zQG5mdS5vcmcudWs=.

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Your comment will be checked by our moderation team and may be used in other NFU publications. Commenting guidelines

  • Posted by: Carol CarruthersPosted on: 29/10/2017 12:48:22

    Comment: At the weekend 500 yes give hundred were released in memory of a local man on the Promenade at Maryport beside the Solway Forth! How many would end up in the sea polluting & causing harm to Marine life?
  • Posted by: Judith JonesPosted on: 29/10/2017 15:21:18

    Comment: I am still very concerned - great that there are some councils banning them but how does that work. If someone lights and lets it go, what happens then???
  • Posted by: Zarah FoardPosted on: 29/10/2017 22:58:52

    Comment: We have found these in our horses field. The metal on these, could so easily have got wrapped around their fetlock and cause immeasurable harm. These thing should be banned immediately by all councils.
  • Posted by: Melanie Appleby Posted on: 30/10/2017 10:56:53

    Comment: It's about time these horrific things were band for once and for all they not only pollute injure animals they also damage our sea
  • Posted by: Claire coatesPosted on: 30/10/2017 14:23:23

    Comment: Please ban , I have horses an this is always a threat to them
  • Posted by: Sharron Jones Posted on: 30/10/2017 20:01:55

    Comment: I am so disappointed that my council, Wrexham County Borough Council, have not banned these dangerous sky lanterns and I call on them to ban them immediately.
  • Posted by: June WhitePosted on: 19/11/2017 22:55:20

    Comment: They are dangerous, not always immediately, but they linger on trees and the ground. They do dangerous damage to livestock. Ban them,, that goes for noisy fireworks.
  • Posted by: Gaynor HickingPosted on: 23/09/2018 23:04:53

    Comment: What will it take? A thatched cottage and loss of human life. Stop it now so wildlife/cattle do not suffer.
  • Posted by: Margo WardPosted on: 20/10/2018 21:54:52

    Comment: Hertforshire are not yet banning the sky lanterns
  • Posted by: Kelly Collins Posted on: 30/12/2018 19:27:39

    Comment: They are so dangerous to ALL animals. They can start fires. They litter. Ban them full stop
  • Posted by: TERI BROWNINGPosted on: 01/11/2017 00:44:35

    Comment: please sign the petition to get sky lanterns and balloon releases banned. Defra have kicked it back and say no changes are needed. To get a debate in parliament we need 100,000 signatures, there are over 37,000 already. Thanks

  • Posted by: Debbie RussellPosted on: 02/11/2017 09:44:46

    Comment: Caerphilly Council in Wales has "banned" them - yet a load were let off last week in Caerphilly. I was told that they can only ban the sale but cannot ban people setting them off e.g. after buying them on the Internet. To my mind the only answer is a nationwide law banning their USE.
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