Sky lanterns and animal welfare

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 where it was released. Once extinguished, the lantern falls back to the ground. As well as being a significant fire risk, it can be hazardous to wildlife, farm animals and horses.

Are sky lanterns banned in the UK?

Sky lanterns aren't currently banned in England or Scotland, but they've been banned in Wales on all council land since February 2018.

We've campaigned with other organisations for a number of years for England to implement the same ban on all council land, and we've been met with some success.

We've escalated our sky litter campaign and joined forces with the National Farmers Union (NFU), National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and 16 other like-minded organisations calling for a complete ban under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The dangers of sky lanterns

Paper lanterns aren't safe for animals or the environment. They can cause injury, suffering and death to animals if they:

  • Eat them
  • Become tangled up in them
  • Become trapped by them

When they're eaten, sharp parts like the wire frame can tear and puncture an animal's throat or stomach causing internal bleeding. Animals can also become entangled in fallen lantern frames, where they can suffer from injury and stress trying to get free or starve to death from being trapped. Marine life is also endangered by lanterns falling into the sea.

Paper lanterns are a fire hazard

Sky lanterns can cause fires, as they use an open flame to float. This could destroy habitats and set animal housing, feed and bedding alight.

For this reason, they've 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.

The fire risk is higher during the dry summer months, as it's easier for grass and countryside to catch fire.

Biodegradable lanterns aren't a safe alternative

Don't be fooled into thinking that 'biodegradable' paper lanterns are safe. Materials like bamboo are used instead of wire, but it can still take decades to degrade and there's still a fire risk.

We want people instead to use alternatives to these types of paper lanterns and avoid the danger to our countryside and animals.

Ban sky lanterns to protect animals

Defra is commissioning a piece of research on the use of Sky Lanterns and Disposable BBQs, to show their commitment to understanding the issue with sky lanterns more and their environmental impacts. In response, the NFU has launched a petition to gather and demonstrate public support for the banning of sky lanterns.

Add your voice

Help stop sky litter and its danger to animals and the destruction of their habitats through wildfires.

Sign the petition

What else can you do

We're calling for a ban on sky lanterns, in partnership with many other organisations including the Marine Conservation Society, Women's Food and Farming Union (WFU), Soil Association and National Farmers Union (NFU).

You can help by:

  • Picking up lantern litter
  • Discouraging others from using lanterns
  • Contacting event planners and retailers asking them to use safe alternatives
  • Contacting local councils about planned releases
  • Writing to your local MP (England).

Read more in our guide to sky lanterns, and follow the links below to learn more about the alternatives.

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