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Why Bonfire night can be dangerous for the planet

As you probably already know, Bonfire night is a UK tradition which takes place on the 5th of November every year to celebrate the foiled Gunpowder plot. You can read more about this unsuccessful plot here, but briefly, it was the failed assassination of King James I where explosives were placed underneath the Parliament building in 1605 by Guy Fawkes and his followers.


The celebrations typically include the use of fireworks and large bonfires; essentially being an ironic symbol for a failed explosion. Unfortunately, however, experts are now claiming that Bonfire night can have a detrimental effect on the environment. This is due to the materials being burnt and the chemicals and plastics in fireworks create masses of air pollution which can harm humans, animal, and ultimately the planet.


In fact, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claim that the celebrations have a worse effect on UK air quality than all of the country’s waste incinerator’s emissions for an entire year.



Burning waste illegally

Bonfires are a typical way to celebrate the event and they can be great fun and really enjoyable for everyone. However, there has been a worrying trend where people and even some businesses take advantage of the large bonfires by using it as an opportunity to burn unwanted waste. They do this to save on waste transfer and disposal costs. But this can be incredibly dangerous and certainly bad for the environment.


This is because the material used to burn can be entirely inappropriate for burning and cause some serious pollutants into the atmosphere. A representative for the Environment Agency suggests that “burning certain types of material can cause pollution and damage people’s health. [and that] We want people to enjoy themselves but the uncontrolled and excessive burning of the wrong waste can cause pollution and harm health”.


Fires should never include plastics, rubber, glass, or metal and people can face fines of up to £50,000 if they illegally dispose of their waste in this way. So individuals and businesses which were planning on using their waste to make a bonfire this week should be careful and should read the Environment Agency advice on GOV.UK which you can find here.



What you can do to have a more eco-friendly Bonfire night

There are a few ways you can reduce your negative impact on the environment this Bonfire night…


One way, if you’re building a fire, is to ensure that there are no animals in hiding in between the logs and that you all the material use is safe to burn and definitely not commercial or household waste. This will mean that your fire does not pollute any toxic fumes or directly harm any animals.


Another way is to use eco-friendly fireworks. These ones tend to use more nitrogen and so burn cleaner fuel. Unfortunately, these aren’t quite mainstream yet, and so you may need to find specialist stores or source them online. If you do, you’ll increase the demand and so hopefully next year they will be more popular and more widely available.


A final way people celebrate which we haven’t yet discussed is to use ‘Sky Lanterns’. These lanterns (pictured below) use the heat from the flame lit within them to soar off into the sky similar to a hot air balloon. But, whilst they do make for a pleasant viewing experience, they are essentially floating litter and have been known to kill animals who get stuck in them and they have even been known to set fire to dry woodland areas.

sky lantern waste
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