Remember, remember, to be sustainable this November
Each year on November 5th many of us take part in Bonfire Night celebrations by gathering round a bonfire or watching fireworks illuminate the night sky. However, as we remember Guy Fawkes’ plot to destroy Parliament, the explosive impact that Bonfire Night waste can have on the environment tends to pass us by.
From fireworks releasing potentially harmful chemicals, to bonfire smoke increasing pollution levels, could this annual celebration be made more eco-friendly?
In this post, we explore what can be done to make this annual event more sustainable, allowing us to enjoy Bonfire Night in a more responsible way.
Every year bonfires are ignited all over the country, using an abundance of materials, but are not always done so responsibly. Bonfires have the potential to cause real damage to the environment if not managed properly. Here are some tips to consider, allowing you to make this year’s bonfire that little bit greener:
Use natural materials
Bonfire smoke traveling through the night sky can be very damaging to the environment, particularly if inappropriate materials are burnt. Burning materials like plastics, rubber, or even old pieces of furniture not only impacts the environment, it’s also illegal. RPS 50, the legislation that covers bonfire night fires, states that you must:
- only burn waste wood in the open during community events such as Guy Fawkes’ bonfires and Scout and Guide campfires
- only burn visibly clean waste wood – this excludes wood that has been painted or treated with chemical wood preservatives
- only burn card and paper in quantities necessary to start the fire
- make sure the size and location of the bonfire or campfire is appropriate for the event
Mind the hedgehogs!
Hedgehogs prepare for hibernation in November, so there’s a significant risk of the poor creatures and their habitats ending up in a bonfire. To lower the risk, Country Living advise us to build a bonfire on the day. This way, wildlife such as hedgehogs are less likely to make their way into your bonfire, and it also stops the risk of rain dampening the fire, creating more smoke.
For further details on reducing the threat to Hedgehog’s this Bonfire Night, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society offers expert advice.
If there are left over materials that haven’t been used on the bonfire, such as pallets, Reconomy’s waste management services may be able help. If you need assistance handling waste in any clean up, contact us today for expert guidance.
The most eye-catching part of any Bonfire Night celebrations must surely be fireworks. As colourful displays light up the sky, it’s important to remember that not all fireworks are eco-friendly, with many containing harmful chemicals that contribute to air pollution. To ensure your fireworks are not causing any unnecessary damage, here’s what we recommend:
Use Eco-friendly fireworks
They might be more difficult to find but switching to eco-friendly fireworks will make a substantial difference to the environmental impact of your Bonfire Night celebrations. Also make sure you purchase your fireworks from a licenced retailer and follow all the necessary regulations.
If you’re struggling to find eco-friendly fireworks, Ecotricity advises that white-coloured fireworks contain fewer harmful chemicals than coloured ones, so this is something else to consider.
Disposing of used fireworks is not only dangerous, but it also isn’t very sustainable, as most leftovers aren’t recyclable and tend to make their way into landfill. The best way to reduce this is to try and limit the number that you set off in the first place.
To make sure fireworks are disposed of safely, HWRF recommends a ‘Soak it – Bag It – Bin it’ approach. Placing used fireworks in a bucket of water will prevent any risks of unexpected explosions, allowing them to then be placed in a bag and binned.
Following a safe disposal route for your used fireworks is very important. For expert guidance, also speak with the licensed retailer from which you purchased them.
Consider the law
It’s important to consider the laws when purchasing fireworks, with fines now being unlimited and prison sentences being issued to those who break them. For more information on firework laws, we recommend visiting Gov.UK.
Not all Bonfire Night waste is a consequence of fireworks and bonfires. To help minimise other types of waste, here are some more waste reduction tips:
A challenging waste stream all year round, most parties, gatherings and other types of events will generate large volumes of food waste – either from food sold or provided by event organisers, or from those attending taking their own. To ensure it is handled responsibly, organising appropriate food segregation and collection opportunities increases the chance of the waste being recycled. Another option is to use left-over food waste as compost. Many farmers host events on their land, so the leftover food waste may benefit vegetable patches and prevent it from ending up in general waste.
If you need further guidance on handling food waste, do not hesitate to get in touch with Reconomy.
Drinks (single-use plastics)
It is likely that drinks will be served to accompany the food, whether they are sold or provided at an event or brought along. Single-use plastics are a hot topic on the climate agenda, more significantly after the release of Seaspiracy, so it’s crucial to consider the environmental impact of plastic cups at events you organise or attend. To prevent plastics from being single-use, here’s what we recommend using for drinks:
- For cold beverages, consider using a reusable water bottle
- For hot beverages, consider taking a flask that’s reusable
- For alcoholic beverages, use glasses and wash them up afterward, or take your own.
Attend a local event
Although large scale events typically generate more waste, mainly due to the significant numbers in attendance, they do however reduce the overall number of bonfires and fireworks needed on the night.
Rather than numerous households lighting individual bonfires, if everyone gathers around the same one, it reduces the amount of materials needed/used. The same principle applies to fireworks, which is important to consider as they are nearly impossible to recycle. Rather than purchasing your own, why not enjoy the same ones together with family and friends?
Professionally organised events are also more likely to have an organised clean-up afterward, which you can get involved in. They should also have appropriate recycling facilities.
Avoid using lanterns
A recent trend of Bonfire Night is the introduction of lanterns. They may be enjoyable to watch, but just how much damage do they cause?
Once a lantern reaches its end destination, it can still pose a huge threat to both wildlife and the ground it lands on. The burnt-out remains can damage the ground, whilst animals risk getting tangled in the metal wires used to hold the lantern together. Due to the threats they bring, Wales has now announced that all council-owned land has banned the use of sky lanterns.
This year, we recommend sticking to a bonfire and fireworks to reduce damage, though there are other options available. Using biodegradable lanterns is a step in the right direction. Using eco-friendly alternatives should be considered, ensuring there are no parts such as metal wires that wildlife can get tangled in. Plus. they are less likely to damage the ground they land on!
Enjoy an eco-friendly event!
We hope these tips can help you enjoy Bonfire Night without causing harm to our planet. However, if you have some more eco-friendly tips, we’d love to hear them! Contact us today and let us know your best practices.