An outright ban on the use of Chinese sky lanterns in Wales has edged a step closer. Last week Torfaen County Borough Council became the latest Welsh local authority to ban the use of sky lanterns on their land. The council announced the ban arguing sky lanterns pose a fire hazard to crops and buildings.
The reality is that Chinese lanterns can also be ingested by livestock, or cause entanglement or entrapment. This can lead to animals suffering injury, stress or even death. The fire risks, particularly in summer months, cannot be ruled out.
Torfaen is the 16th out of 22 councils in Wales to take action and voluntarily impose a ban on sky lanterns. More than 50 local authorities in the UK, including 25 in England, have agreed to ban the use of sky lanterns on their land.
Earlier this month, farm minister George Eustice ruled out imposing a formal ban on sky lanterns to protect livestock, saying councils were already acting to ban them.
The NFU has urged farmers to write to their local councils to highlight the dangers of sky lanterns to their livestock and businesses.
While an outright banning of sky lanterns seems extreme, their use getting restricted to sea dispersal seems wise.
Just a few years ago, the Smethwick fire occurred and hospitalised three firemen. It involved 100,000 tonnes of plastic recycling material. At the time, crews described the blaze, which also involved a factory unit, as the largest they had seen in the West Midlands. It was suspected to have been caused by a fire lantern. More than 200 firefighters attended the fire in Smethwick. The fire produced a 6,000ft smoke plume and is said to have caused £6m of damage.
It is only sensible that councils across the UK continue to ban these lanterns. Perhaps designated places next to large beaches can be identified for occasional launches when the wind is directed out to sea.