The BBC is reporting on the environmental and safety issues surrounding the seemingly harmless and beautiful Chinese lantern, something that has become an increasingly common site in the UK
Chinese lanterns have brightened up Britain’s summer evenings, but have left a coalition of farmers, coastguards and animal lovers furious. Why?
As they float up gently into the night, illuminating the warm skies, it’s hard to imagine anything less likely to provoke anger and offence.
Chinese lanterns are cheap, easy to use and, above all, pretty to look at – and over the last decade they have become an increasingly popular sight at weddings, music festivals and even funerals.
The lanterns – effectively, mini-hot air balloons composed of flame, paper and wire – cost as little as £2 each and can travel as far as 30 miles, carried upwards by the heat until they burn out and fall to earth. [...]
Calls for a ban have been circulating, questions have been asked in the House of Commons – parried by the deputy prime minister, no less – and no less an authority than the Marine and Coastguard Agency has warned of their dangers.
What harm could these serenely glowing vessels possibly pose?
According to Britain’s agricultural community, a great deal. Citing a surge in livestock killed by eating wire from degraded lanterns which were accidentally picked up by harvest machinery and put into winter feed, the National Farmers Union wants them banned.
Read the rest of the story over at BBC News
I first heard about this a few months ago, listening to Farming Today (one of the plus points of getting up at 5.30 every morning – it’s a surprisingly interesting programme!) The stories the farmers were recounting of cows dying from ingesting the metal remains, or of fires started by lanterns falling to earth on dry grass or straw were rather worrying.
Is banning the right approach, or should we be looking to design an alternative? If you read the rest of the story you’ll see that there are biodegradable versions available (as indeed the original lanterns must have been). Whatever – sounds like a design problem to me…