Sky Lanterns

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 17th November 2020.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the damage caused by sky lanterns; and what plans they have to impose a national ban on such lanterns in rural areas.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

In 2013, the UK and Welsh Governments jointly commissioned an independent study looking at the impacts of sky lanterns and helium balloons on livestock and the environment. The report concluded that the impact was generally low, though did highlight a potential fire safety risk.

Any action the Government takes must be proportionate to the level of risk and we have concluded, based on the results of this research, that an outright ban would be disproportionate in the circumstances. Should evidence that this approach is no longer sufficient arise, we will take the necessary action.

We do recognise the need to protect our environment and wildlife and have therefore used media messaging to encourage people and businesses to consider the risks before releasing lanterns.

There may be times when a local ban is appropriate as part of a wider strategic approach. and local authorities already have powers to restrict or ban the use of sky lanterns on council or public land. Many councils in England, Scotland and Wales have applied such a ban. We will continue to review the latest evidence on problematic products and materials to take a systematic approach to reducing the use of single-use products.

Voluntary actions and initiatives aimed at minimising the risks associated with sky lanterns and driving up safety standards have been effective. This includes a voluntary Code of Practice for sky lanterns developed by industry with Government support to ensure that they are manufactured to be safe and are sold responsibly. Sky lanterns also fall in scope of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 which oblige producers and distributors to place only safe consumer products on the market.

As the law stands in England, it is conceivable that a magistrates’ court would conclude that a release of sky lanterns constitutes a littering offence. Section 87 of the?Environmental Protection Act 1990 says: “A person is guilty of an offence if he throws down, drops or otherwise deposits any litter in any place to which this section applies and leaves it”. Ultimately it would be for a court to rule whether this phrase would cover sky lantern releases.

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