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Chinese (sky) lanterns

Chinese (or ‘Sky’) lanterns consist of a paper-covered wire or bamboo frame and an open flame heat source, which lifts the lantern into the air where it can float for miles from the point of release. Once extinguished the lantern falls back to earth.

Lanterns pose a threat to animals, as they can cause injury, suffering, and death, through:

  • ingestion,
  • entanglement,
  • entrapment.

Landowners have called for a ban on Chinese lanterns in the UK, following cases of livestock injured or killed from eating lantern parts accidentally chopped into animal feed during harvest, or getting caught in wire frames that have landed in fields.

Sharp parts they can tear and puncture an animal’s throat or stomach causing internal bleeding or death.

Animals can become entangled in fallen lantern frames and suffer from injury and stress struggling to get free, or starve to death. Marine life is endangered by lanterns falling into the sea.

This barn owl pictured above was found dead in a lantern frame (photo © Simon Pain). 

Chinese or sky lantern being launched © efired / iStockphoto

Fire risk

Sky lanterns can cause fires, which destroy habitats and set animal housing, feed and bedding alight. They are already been banned in some countries and fire services have issued warnings to people over the fire risk following incidents such as the Smethwick recycling plant fire. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘biodegradable’ lanterns are safe! Bamboo can take decades to degrade and there is still a fire risk. 


We’re urging people to use alternatives to Chinese lanterns:

  • Stationary candles, nightlights
  • Static lanterns or outdoor lights.
  • Plant a tree in memory of a loved one.

What can you do?

Help us, and many other organisations including the Marine Conservation Society, Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU), Soil Association and National Farmers Union (NFU), to call for a ban on Chinese lanterns.

  • Pick up any lantern debris.
  • Discourage others from using lanterns.
  • Contact event planners and retailers asking them to use alternatives.
  • Contact local councils about planned releases.
  • Write to your local MP (England).

Please download our Chinese lanterns (PDF 348KB) factsheet.