November Recycling Challenge: Have a Greener Bonfire Night
We’re kicking off this month by challenging you to have a greener Bonfire Night. Bonfire Night is often criticised for being wasteful and polluting, but if you’re having a bonfire party or fireworks display at home, a few greener choices can really reduce the impact on the environment. Here are our top tips on how you can have a greener Bonfire Night.
Only use natural materials on your bonfire
Many people see bonfires as a way to get rid of waste or old furniture and mattresses, but you really shouldn’t be putting anything manmade on a fire.
It’s against the law to burn treated wood, tyres, plastics, rubber, and oil, and not only that, it causes air pollution and is a health risk for people who are nearby. Only put dry untreated wood and organic materials like garden waste on your bonfire. Don’t use firelighters or try to burn damp materials as these tend to make bonfires give off more smoke.
If you’re thinking, ‘yeah, right, how much damage can a bonfire really do to air quality?’ think about this; back in 2012, the government said that emissions caused by bonfires and fireworks worsened air quality more than emissions from the country’s waste incinerators combined.
Watch out for wildlife
Wildlife are part of a healthy eco-system, so it’s important to make sure that you don’t inadvertently harm them when you light your fire. Animals like hedgehogs tend to shelter under logs and foliage at this time of year, so if you can, build your bonfire on the day of your party, and have a few final checks for wildlife before you light it.
Be smart when choosing fireworks
Fireworks are an essential part of a bonfire party, but they all contain chemicals, which can pollute the air for days. Generally, the more colourful fireworks are, the more chemicals they contain, because it’s the chemical, in the form of metal salts, that produce the colours. Choose white coloured fireworks, which contain fewer chemicals.
If you were wondering whether eco-friendly fireworks actually exist, well new developments are happening all of the time, and researchers are coming up with fireworks that are that bit better for the environment. There are fireworks available that use compressed air instead of gunpowder (which is packed with chemicals), and researchers are currently looking at using a nitrogen-based fuel in fireworks which is less polluting and doesn’t create as much smoke.
Watch the weather
The weather conditions can determine how much a bonfire or fireworks pollute the air. If it’s misty, it can worsen pollution. The ideal conditions are clear skies and a light breeze. Watching the weather forecast can help you choose the best evening for your bonfire party.
Avoid sky lanterns
As pretty as they can look, they can be harmful to wildlife. Once they are set off, they can end up pretty much anywhere, and the wire can trap or be ingested by animals. There are biodegradable sky lanterns available online, however, if you really want them.
Some final thoughts
Bonfire parties can be a lot of fun and you can enjoy sparklers, fireworks, and good food with family and friends, but do spare a thought for those living nearby. If your neighbours won’t be joining you at your party, let them know that you’re going to be having a bonfire and fireworks so they can take steps to take extra care of their pets (many people will probably already have measures in place to relax anxious pets, but it always pays to be courteous.)
If you want to be a good neighbour, you don’t have to be firing off noisy rockets all night, you can choose ground-based fireworks like fountains or Catherine wheels which tend to be quieter.
If you really want a greener bonfire night, you can avoid adding to the emissions yourself by going to a public fireworks display. These displays are usually stringently risk-assessed and planned down to the last detail so there’s less chance of any safety issues happening.
The best bit about attending a public display is you just have to wrap up, turn up, and enjoy the spectacle!
Stay safe and be green this Bonfire Night.