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http://theguardian.com/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/jul/31/sky-lanterns and http://bbc.com/news/magazine-23129276 are critical about use of lanterns which float into the sky using hot air because of risk of fire and litter, but the same sites do not question the impact of firework displays, especially massive ones during Bonfire Night and the New Year.

For the same typical audience size, how do they compare?

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    I don't know much about sky lanterns, but I do know that decorative fireworks usually contains pieces of plastic, heavy metals for coloring (e.g. barium, strontium, antimony) and that setting them off produces particulates/smog and CO2 (see also this answer on Quora). That's why I suspect that the environmental impact of a large rocket is worse than that of a sky lantern (provided the lantern doesn't cause massive fires), but I can't substantiate this. – THelper Feb 24 '16 at 12:25
  • @THelper you may well be right but plastic film litter (e.g. from sky lanterns) is a particularly damaging form of litter for wildlife, while the bulk components of fireworks are mostly biodegradable (cardboard, wood). – Chris H Feb 24 '16 at 21:27
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    @THelper there have been moves to ban them in some areas because of the plastic litter. Perhaps the plastic sort have fallen out of favour, or the OP's article discusses a more traditional design. – Chris H Feb 25 '16 at 8:06
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    @Mσᶎ I took the question to be about garden-scale fireworks -- not that I disagree with your comment. The commercial ones lead to another question: Can a big display on a significant date displace enough private firework parties that it's less polluting? – Chris H Feb 26 '16 at 15:37
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    Fireworks will come back down fairly close to where they were launched. So you can monitor that area, and clean up litter afterwards. Whereas sky lanterns can travel 10 miles or more, you have no idea where they land, or if they have caused a fire somewhere else. – vclaw Feb 26 '16 at 23:58
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There are a few papers about the environmental impact of fireworks (see link and link as examples). In the first one they also discuss that exposure to fireworks is risky for the people attending the display as opposed to what happens to people attending a festival with sky-lanterns.

They analyze the concentration of determined particles in the air during and after the celebration and comparing it with the usual levels.

Although this is not a complete answer it could give you at least an starting place and you could check the references of both these articles to find more information on the topic.

  • Thanks, that's a good start when deciding whether to go set off fireworks, sky lantern or just sit and watch TV! – Gnubie Feb 29 '16 at 0:13

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