Sparklers are pretty small, so you might think their environmental impact is inconsequential.
Sparklers are not eco-friendly since they’re made from non-renewable materials and are single-use items.
Here’s everything you need to know about how sustainable sparklers are and what your options are if you’re looking for a greener alternative.
1. What Are Sparklers Made Of?
Sparklers are made of metal, usually a thin iron wire.
The wire is coated with a mixture of different elements to make them flammable.
This typically includes aluminum, potassium perchlorate, barium nitrate, and titanium.
Dextrin is typically used to bind the mixture together.
Dextrin is derived from cornstarch, potassium perchlorate and barium nitrate are salts, and aluminum and titanium are metals.
2. Are Sparklers Bad for the Environment?
Sparklers are bad for the environment.
Sparklers are single-use items, so once it has been lit, you cannot burn them again.
They are also not made from renewable materials, so eventually, there will be no more new metal left in the Earth’s crust.
Aside from being non-renewable, there are also some environmental concerns regarding mining.
Mining can also physically degrade the environment as land must be cleared to build the mine site.
Not only does this impact the ecosystem, but the mining can make the soil and rocks in the area unstable and contribute to soil erosion, which means the environment does not always physically recover afterward.
Plus, converting metal ore into products like sparklers requires energy.
Most energy use in the US is from non-renewable sources, so manufacturing the sparklers is not sustainable either.
3. Are Sparklers Recyclable?
Although metal is recyclable, sparklers are generally not recyclable.
Small metal products like tin foil and metal cans can go in a recycle bin, but sparklers cannot.
Since the metal is coated with different substances, it is difficult to separate these components, and the recycling facility will not have the means to do so.
4. Are Sparklers Reusable?
Sparklers are not reusable.
As they burn, they use up the coating on the iron wire, so once this has been burned, it will not light again.
5. Are Sparklers Biodegradable?
Sparklers are not biodegradable since metal is not biodegradable.
Although some brands have made biodegradable sparklers from wood, they are not as popular or accessible as traditional metal sparklers.
With that said, the handle of wooden sparklers may be biodegradable, but it is unlikely that the top (which has been coated with flammable materials) is, as some aluminum and titanium could still be on the sparkler.
There has also been research into developing biodegradable metals, but they are intended to be used as surgical implants rather than commercial items.
So, biodegradable metal sparklers are unlikely to be manufactured in the near future.
6. Are Sparklers Sustainable?
Sparklers are not sustainable since metal is not renewable and is not sourced sustainably.
Although they are small, they are still single-use items that cannot be recycled and are not biodegradable.
Single-use waste can quickly build up.
Plus, it takes energy and resources to create sparklers, so the fact that they can only be used once means there is always a demand for more sparklers.
Moreover, although sparklers are small, their use can release harmful compounds into the air.
7. Are Sparklers Toxic?
Since sparklers are small, many people might assume they are non-toxic or would give off a negligible amount of hazardous compounds.
However, there are some environmental concerns about burning sparklers since it entails burning metals as sparklers are essentially smaller versions of fireworks.
Research found that fireworks release harmful smoke and small metallic particles which can easily be inhaled.
After firework displays, the levels of lead, copper, strontium, potassium, and magnesium in the air were much higher.
These elements can pose potential health risks, especially for those who already have cardiovascular issues or asthma.
Barium nitrate is also considered toxic.
High exposure to this compound has been linked with nausea, muscle weakness, an irregular heartbeat, and more.
However, burning one sparkler is unlikely to be considered high exposure.
Titanium is non-toxic when used in a surgical setting, such as hip replacements.
However, titanium dioxide, which occurs when titanium reacts with oxygen, is regarded as an animal carcinogen and can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat.
Inhaling potassium perchlorate can also cause irritation to the nose and throat.
Exposure to this compound in high amounts on a regular basis can negatively impact your health and result in thyroid issues and problems with the kidneys and white blood cells.
Again, while sparklers are much smaller than fireworks, burning multiple sparklers in one sitting can easily accumulate a lot of smoke and release metallic particles into the air.
There has been research into creating sparklers that are less toxic, but you are unlikely to find these in stores, and it is important to note that these sparklers are not non-toxic, just less toxic than regular sparklers.
Sourcing the components to create sparklers is toxic to the environment, too.
Mining aluminum means this element can enter the environment via water pollution and into the soul from acid rain.
For example, high aluminum exposure can destroy forests by killing the trees.
This is concerning since not only are forests home to other plants and animals, but trees absorb carbon dioxide, so losing forests can accelerate global warming.
Exposure to iron from mining can also negatively affect the health of marine life and humans who drink contaminated water.
Iron can also interact with the growth of plants, like rice, which are important food sources.
Potassium perchlorate can also enter water supplies; when consumed, it can interfere with thyroid health.
8. How to Dispose of Sparklers Properly?
Sparklers must be disposed of in the general waste bin.
Ensure the sparklers are no longer burning and are completely cooled down before doing so; otherwise, it can be a fire hazard.
To be on the safe side, dunk your sparkler in water to ensure it is completely cool before throwing it in the bin.
9. Are There Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Sparklers?
Unlike metal, wood is a renewable resource.
Depending on what a wooden sparkler has been coated with, it may be biodegradable and compostable – or at least, the base of the sparkler would be biodegradable.
However, remember that many kinds of paints and varnishes are not biodegradable.
While lasers are often made from metal, which has an environmental impact, reusable products are more sustainable since they reduce single-use waste.
Reusable Glow Sticks
Reusable glow sticks are typically made from plastic which is also non-renewable.
However, unlike sparklers, these do not generate single-use waste or emit hazardous substances since the chemicals inside the glow stick do not get released into the environment.