Environmental effects of fireworks with special consideration of plastic emissions

In Germany, about 133 million Euro are spent annually for New Year’s Eve fireworks, which result in 38,000 to 49,000 Mg of total firework mass. By a com-bination of desk research with official fireworks approval statistics, a customer survey, dismantling experiments with fireworks debris and with packaging characterisation, the total nationwide polymer emission was estimated to be 3,088 Mg. Out of this total mass, a projected polymer debris mass of 534 Mg was identified, and about 270 Mg of polymer packaging material. The remaining 2283 Mg of polymer mass are parts that eventually may remain at the launching site.

by Woidasky, Jörg; Deuschle, Lukas; Oßwald, Kai; and Weiser, Volker

The environmental impact of fireworks has been under discussion since decades, although almost exclusively focusing on the effects of the pyrotechnic composition on air emission and on soil and surface deposition (Rommerskirchen 2019; Hicks et al. 1986; Kulshrestha et al. 2004; Steinhauser et al. 2008; Umweltbundesamt 2018). solid waste: In Germany between 38,000 and 49,000 Mg of fireworks are sold annually through official channels only. According to literature, about 60-75 % of this total mass is accounted for by low-reactivity solids (cardboard, paper, wood, clay and plastic for casings, construction parts and packaging), the remaining 25-40 % is accounted for by pyrotechnic and effect sets (potassium nitrate, charcoal, sulphur and above all strontium, copper and barium compounds) (Umweltbundesamt 2018). While the latter primarily produce finely distributed particulate or gaseous reaction products, the former are the reason for diffuse waste discharges into the environment. Consequently, this work focuses on fireworks debris only, and specifically on the polymer portion of this debris.

Research carried out between September 2019 and March 2020 was supposed to answer the question of how much plastic is released into the environment by individual fireworks in Germany, which by law is only allowed at New Year’s Eve. Data from the following sources were used for quantification (Deuschle 2020).

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published: Recy & DepoTech, 11|2020
Keywords: Material Recovery, Plastics