An eco-friendly Bonfire Night?

Air pollution levels triple from annual average on November 5

Evening Standard

Air pollution levels triple on Bonfire Night, scientists warn

Air pollution levels on Bonfire Night were last year up to four times the daytime level, scientists have said following a major urban study.

Levels of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere tripled before 11pm on November 5, 2018, the same research showed.

They rose from around 20 micrograms/m3 in the day to a staggering 80 micrograms/m3 at 11pm, according to readings in Newcastle and Gateshead.

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Can you have an eco-friendly Bonfire Night?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November / Gunpowder treason and plot / We see no reason / Why gunpowder treason / Should ever be forgot!"

The 1605 Gunpowder Plot is still marked today by the lighting of bonfires and fireworks exploding in the sky.

The November 5 celebrations, however, come at a cost.

Scientists warn that air pollution levels in the UK can triple on Bonfire Night.

There are ways to celebrate an eco-friendly Guy Fawkes Night, though.

The Claim

A study by scientists at Newcastle University found that air pollution levels can triple from the annual average on Bonfire Night.

The levels of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere even increased by four times the daytime level measured on November 5 last year.

The UK's largest urban experiment, which collected data about city life, showed that the air pollution levels rose from around 20 micrograms/m3 in the day to 80 micrograms/m3 at 11pm on Bonfire Night.

This is eight times the recommended 10 micrograms/m3 safe limit from the World Health Organisation.

Phil James, a professor from Newcastle University's School of Engineering, said: "The air pollution data we collected over 24 hours last Bonfire Night paints a really striking picture of the impact the fireworks and bonfires are having on air quality.

"It's perhaps not surprising - you can often smell the gunpowder and smoke in the air on November 5th - and the low cloud cover that night exacerbated the situation."

The Counterclaim

Country Living's Lisa Walden acknowledges the harsh truths about how bad Bonfire Night is for the environment, suggesting ways to "make sure your celebrations are a bit more sustainable".

She recommends attending a public firework display in your local, rather than hosting a private one.

Walden writes: "Gathering in one place for a bigger display will result in fewer emissions than lots of small, private events.

"Many are organised to help raise donations for local charities, meaning that you’ll not only get to enjoy a spectacular display, but also help to make a difference."

She also says that people need to burn the right materials on their bonfires, and not use it as an excuse to burn old rubbish.

Walden adds: "Burning manmade materials, such as plastics or rubber, can have a drastic effect on the environment.

"According to research from Defra, bonfires contribute more pollutants to the air than those emitted by waste incinerators."

Why do we celebrate Bonfire Night?

Bonfire Night commemorates the failure of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, which saw Catholic activists attempt to blow up the Palace of Westminster during the state opening of parliament.

They wanted to assassinate the Protestant King James I and his ministers in order to make England a Catholic nation again. The plotters, including Guy Fawkes, put 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament.

Fawkes was the person whose job it was to light the fuse, but he was caught in parliament's cellars. The plot was rumbled after one of the conspirators sent a letter to his brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, warning him to stay away on November 5.

Fawkes was arrested and sent to the Tower of London to endure days of torture before he confessed and provided the names of his fellow plotters, including leader Robert Catesby.

The plotters were either killed or captured, with the survivors being sentenced to death by being hung, drawn and quartered on January 31, 1606.

Moments before his execution, Fawkes jumped off the gallows, breaking his neck and dying. His body was still chopped into quarters.

A year after the failed Gunpowder Plot, parliament established November 5 as a day of public thanksgiving. Under the special act, special church services were held and people were encouraged to light bonfires each year.

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6 harsh truths about how Bonfire Night is bad news for the environment

Plus, six ways to make sure your celebrations are a bit more sustainable

What is the environmental impact of Bonfire Night? Although the 5th November brings celebration, colour and community events to much of the UK, it also comes with a whole host of polluting toxins, non-recyclable waste and lingering particles that stay in the air long after the sparklers have died out.

Here are some statistics that highlight the reality of how Bonfire Night affects the environment:

1. " Fireworks cause extensive air pollution in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours and days," reports.

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