Maidstone Borough Council has joined the list of local authorities that have banned their use on all land owned or managed by them.
It is estimated that in the UK alone, 200,000 are sold each year. Sky lanterns, also known as Chinese lanterns, are novelty items and consist of a candle or a fuel cell filled with paraffin wax suspended inside a frame of wire or bamboo and covered in paper.
When lit, they float upwards and drift away, landing when the fuel has run out. They can reach up to 1,000m in height and often drift for several miles in the breeze, presenting a hazard when falling onto nearby land or directly into the sea.
Speaking of the ban, Cllr Derek Mortimer, Chairman of the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee, said:
“I am pleased that we have chosen to protect the environment and wildlife by taking this step.
“Farmers and other campaigners have called for a ban for many years as a result of the harm that these lanterns can do if ingested by animals or if they become trapped in them.”
This is a sentiment that has been echoed by animal welfare groups including the RSPCA and the Marine Conservation Society, as well as trade union group Women’s Food & Farming Union (WFU), Soil Association and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) who all support a ban.
Bio-degradable versions are available; however, they are often made of bamboo which takes many years to break down in the ground and still pose the same risks to animals if swallowed, and a threat to property from the naked flame.
Cllr Mortimer added:
“The risks are very real to our local wildlife, and so we are encouraging residents, event organisers and Parish Councils to follow our lead and stop their use.”
The ban is now in effect and any event organiser who plans to host a lantern or balloon release on council-owned parks or open spaces in the borough is being urged to contact the events team at Maidstone Borough Council to discuss alternative options.
Events team: Events@maidstone.gov.uk
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