Are Sparklers Bad for the Environment?

Alongside fireworks, sparklers are often used to celebrate events like Bonfire Night, New Year’s, Independence Day, and more. They are known as handheld fireworks because you can set them alight and cause them to give off an effect like a firework.

Made with the same chemicals as fireworks, they are harmful to the environment and non-biodegradable.

Bursts are bad for the environment because they cannot be recycled, use non-biodegradable materials, and release toxins and pollutants into the air. While smaller than fireworks, the smoke they emit is much closer to people, which causes health problems, especially for those with respiratory conditions or asthma.

How are sparklers bad for the environment?

Like fireworks, they are bad for the environment because they are single-use items coated with different chemicals that pollute the air.

Sparklers are made of an iron rod, an oxidizer that produces color, a fuel to keep the sparkler burning, and a binder that holds it all together. This means that they emit some of the same toxins and pollutants that fireworks do.

Since bursts are smaller, they won’t produce as many toxins and pollutants compared to fireworks, which makes them preferable to fireworks if you’re choosing between the two. But that still makes them bad for the environment.

Because bursts are essentially handheld fireworks, it’s reasonable to assume that the harmful smoke and small metallic particles found to be released by fireworks are also released by sparklers. In particular, potassium is used to coat bursts, which is also used in fireworks, and so is aluminum.

Burning one sparkler isn’t likely to have a big impact on the environment or the toxins you inhale, but it’s still more than if you hadn’t burned anything at all.

It’s also important to consider the dangers posed by sparklers – there are more burns and accidents associated with sparklers than there are fireworks. Now consider how they could also pose dangers to wildlife. By dropping bursts, tossing them away before they’ve burned out, and taunting wildlife with them, bursts can do a lot of harm to all kinds of animals, many of which won’t be reported.

Are sparklers biodegradable?

Sparklers aren’t biodegradable, like all items made from metal. There are some biodegradable wooden bursts but these aren’t as popular or accessible.

Wooden handles on sparklers are biodegradable but most people won’t separate these from the rods, and recycling centers won’t be able to either.

Do sparklers go bad?

The shelf life of a sparkler is at least 5 years from purchase, provided that you keep them dry. Bursts should be placed in a moisture-resistant cover, like a resealable bag or airtight container, and stored in an area out of sunlight that remains cold and dry.

Humidity can affect a sparkler’s lifespan, but this isn’t something we can control. The average lifespan of a sparkler is around 8–10 years.

However, it’s important to remember that the longer they sit on the shelf, the more the sparklers might degrade in functionality. If you find a box of 10-year-olds bursts make sure to be cautious about health and safety around them.

What can you do with leftover sparklers?

If you have leftover sparklers and you want to use them up, be cautious and use them sparingly or store them properly for next year’s celebrations. It’s better to avoid bursts, but since they can only be disposed of it’s better to use them all up over time than buy a new box.

You might think that you can use leftover bursts for other celebrations by placing them in cakes but this isn’t true. The bursts used in confectionery and cakes are made with different materials that make them less harmful and don’t emit as much smoke.

Placing a regular sparkler in a cake would introduce chemicals into the food.

Unsurprisingly, bursts are one-use items. As they burn, the fire uses up the coating on the iron rod so it won’t light again. Even if you only burn the sparkler less than halfway, burning the rest of the sparkler will be dangerous and still emits toxins.

Can you recycle sparklers?

Sparklers are not recycled, and the iron rod is coated in a number of different chemicals which makes them completely non-recyclable.

To make them flammable, they are typically coated with aluminum, potassium perchlorate, barium nitrate, and titanium, while dextrin is used to bind them together.

Other chemicals include oxidizers like strontium nitrate, potassium chlorate, and potassium nitrate.

How do I disable sparklers before discarding them?

Bursts can be disabled by placing them in a bucket of water for at least 15 minutes to ensure that they’re fully extinguished. This should ensure that they can’t be set aflame again.

How do you destroy sparklers in an eco-friendly way?

Sparklers should be disposed of in general waste bins, and only after they’ve stopped burning and are completely cooled down.

There’s no eco-friendly way of destroying bursts. You can minimize the fire hazard by dunking sparklers in a bucket of water to ensure they’re completely cool before disposing of them.

It’s important not to dispose of sparklers in water sources, as potassium perchlorate can pollute water, especially drinking water, groundwater, and surface water.

Are sparklers toxic to humans?

Some of the chemicals used in bursts can pose potential health risks, but with proper safety and only lighting a small number of sparklers at a time it isn’t likely to cause high enough exposure to harm people. Unless they’re particularly sensitive to certain elements.

Potassium perchlorate is known to cause irritation to the nose and throat when inhaled. Making sure to stand back from other bursts is important to reduce the amount of exposure to the chemical.

Are sparklers toxic to dogs?

Sparklers contain toxic ingredients for dogs like barium and iron. In large amounts, they are seriously toxic for dogs, so should always be kept away from pets.

Sparklers can also scare pets and potentially burn them, so keep all pets, especially dogs, away from where you’re using bursts. Always make sure to fully extinguish bursts when you’re done with them.

Store bursts away from pets and in airtight containers they can’t access.

Are there eco-friendly sparklers?

Some companies have manufactured wooden bursts, which are more biodegradable, however, they still pose the same hazards to the environment and release potentially more chemicals, such as in paints and varnishes.

The most eco-friendly option for sparklers is to buy unused bursts from people who would otherwise throw them away. If you know you’re going to want to use bursts for another celebration or next year, collect the leftovers of your current celebration and store them somewhere safe and make sure you don’t forget about them!

If you’re really eyeing up eco-friendly sparklers, check what bamboo bursts and gold sparklers you can purchase, as both emit fewer toxins. This doesn’t make them eco-friendly, just better alternatives to ironing them.

What are eco-friendly alternatives to sparklers?

There are some eco-friendly alternatives, but many of these will not be completely sustainable and could pose other hazards of their own.

Eco-friendly alternatives include:

  • Fairy lights
  • Homemade paper streamers
  • Lasers
  • Party pinwheels (made from foil or paper)
  • Reusable glow sticks (not single-use glow sticks)
  • Ribbon sticks
  • Biodegradable sky lanterns

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