Retailers are being told to outlaw large sales of sky lanterns to most customers as part of new advice to reduce the risk campaigners insist their use poses to livestock and farmland.
The Trading Standards Institute has published an industry code of practice which is intended as guidance on good practice for those who design, manufacture, distribute, sell or use sky lanterns.
Also known as Chinese lanterns, these small hot air balloons are made of paper with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended on a base framework, typically made of metal.
They tend to be released into the air by guests at special outdoor events such as wedding celebrations to create a visual spectacle but countryside campaigners want them to be banned.
Livestock have died from ingesting their debris after lanterns have dropped onto farmland, while their potential set fire to farm buildings and crops is a another concern.
The Trading Standards code of practice offers guidance as to the design and manufacture of sky lanterns, safety checks, warnings and instructions for use, and their responsible sale.
Stockists are urged to consider the number of lanterns sold in a package and are recommended that they are best sold singly or in small numbers. Large orders should only be carried out with established trade users or event organisers, the code of practice states.
Jonathan Evans, assistant land management adviser at the National Farmers’ Union, welcomed that the industry was taking a closer look at the issue, but the NFU is adamant in calling for an outright ban.
“People who buy lanterns have got to realise just how dangerous they can be - they have caused fires on an industrial scale, destroy acres of crops and kill or injure farm animals – so the public should consider alternative ways to mark celebrations,” Mr Evans said.
“The NFU has been encouraged to see local councils such as Essex banning the use of lanterns on its land and large retailers like Tesco and Poundland taking action. We would urge others to follow their lead.”
Dorothy Fairburn, regional director of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “The Code of Practice is a step in the right direction but of course the real solution would be an outright ban.
“This is the only way to prevent the high risk of fires and the dangers to livestock that sky-lanterns pose.”