Ban Chinese lanterns! Bolton MP’s plea after West Midlands recycling plant suffers £6million damage

By David Aspinall

Chinese lanterns should be banned according to a Bolton MP, following the £6million damage on a West Midlands recycling plant caused by a stray lantern.

Many Manchester families are being warned against releasing the lanterns for Bonfire Night after the Smethwick blaze in June.

Bolton West MP Julie Hilling confirmed she would be lobbying parliament to either ban lanterns or enforce tougher regulations on what materials they are made of.

Lanterns are now a common part of many celebrations or remembrance occasions and the majority are made out of paper covered wire or bamboo frames which are propelled into the sky by their heat source.

Ms Hilling said: “It has been a widespread problem in recent years as the number of people using lanterns has increased.

“The recent fire in Smethwick shows how dangerous they can be.”

The fire, which took 200 firefighters to bring it under control, was described as apocalyptic by local residents, and burned 100,000 tonnes of paper and plastic.

More than 200,000 lanterns are sold annually in the UK but they can cause massive harm to animals and danger to aircrafts too.

Both the RSPCA and Manchester Airport have advised people to think twice about releasing them over the festive season due to the chaos the apparently harmless lights can cause.

An entrepreneur from Middleton is already producing a more eco-friendly version of the lanterns, called Sky Orbs, which use fireproof wool instead of wire and a bio-degradable glue made of sweet potatoes and rice.

These alterations mean the lanterns are more wildlife friendly as animals can suffer painful deaths either through the ingestion of wire or entanglement.

Despite these claims an RSPCA spokesman said: “Without seeing the structure it would be hard to comment on this but there is a chance the wool would be a risk to wildlife through entanglement before it had biodegraded.

“Plus it is hard to know how long it would take for the wool and paper to biodegrade.

“We do not advocate lanterns at all – as the bamboo or wire issue is only one of a number of hazards for animals.

“The fire risk – landing on animal or feed sheds – is a major one, as is the risk of injury from an animal being panicked.”

Manchester Airport has reiterated Civil Aviation Authorities guidelines that lanterns should not be released within a 10 nautical mile radius of the airport and this ban also applies to fireworks and toy balloons.

Ahead of Bonfire night the airport suspended all operations on Saturday between 8.15pm and 8.30pm to allow firework displays to take place in the flight path, as the colourful explosions can cause pilots to be distracted.

This year Greater Manchester Fire Service are advising people to avoid launching lanterns in winds in excess of 5mph and in clear open spaces, free from trees and other obstacles which could catch fire.

For the full advice given by Greater Manchester Fire Service, click here.

Image courtesy of Kyle Wang via Flickr, with thanks.

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