What is a thousand tons

It's just tradition: a big, colorful fireworks display at the turn of the year can be a real spectacle. But it has consequences for the environment: The pyrotechnics literally ensure bad air, because the fine dust pollution increases in some cases considerably, which among other things also releases toxic heavy metals. And then there is still an environmental problem after the short bang: a huge pile of rubbish. Researchers at Pforzheim University have looked at how much plastic actually gets into the environment through the New Year's fireworks.

Several thousand tons of plastic

In fact, on New Year's morning, you might get the impression that fireworks are mostly cardboard.

But that's not entirely true, explains Jörg Woidasky, Professor of Sustainable Product Development. Two thirds of the fireworks are rubbish and in addition to the cardboard they also include wood, clay and plastics. "They are used for sleeves, caps and packaging."

The researchers have now analyzed how much of this plastic waste has been saved by the ban on selling fireworks. And this figure is considerable: a total of 3,500 tons of plastic waste did not arise, according to the analysis.

Even if one may regret this year's waiver for cultural reasons, it was very beneficial for the environment: Without New Year's Eve fireworks, the environment in Germany will be spared the release of around 3,500 tons of plastic - in addition to avoiding noise, air pollution and injuries.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Woidasky, Pforzheim University

Plastic emissions from fireworks determined for the first time

For their analysis, the researchers carried out what is known as a sorting and material analysis of fireworks. And the final thesis of the Bachelor student Lukas Deuschle was able to complete the data. He carried out additional customer surveys and approval analyzes. The basis for the analysis was the number of fireworks sold annually before the corona pandemic: The Germans therefore spent over 130 million euros on around 40,000 tons of pyrotechnics.

This elaborate method had become necessary because the researchers simply had no data at all, says Woidasky. "We have not been able to find any precise information on plastic emissions from fireworks in the literature," he explains. That is why they have developed and implemented their own research concept. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT), the work was also published as a book contribution.