One Man’s Lantern, Another Man’s Garbage

The fifteenth day of the Lunar New Year marks not only the end of the new years celebration and festivities, but also the day of the Lantern Festival. One of the most iconic scenes in Taiwan (and now a common scene around the world) is the release of the sky lanterns. The spot to be is PingXi on the outskirts of Taipei. Everyone writes their wishes on the lanterns, release them and watch them float up up into the sky. But do you even wonder where it goes? After all, it’s not exactly Elon Musk’ Tesla roadster.

As PingXi’s Sky Lantern festival has grown in popularity, so has the amount of falling sky lanterns in the area. 2 years ago, Alexander Lin from TKStory discusses this. In the video Alexander says, “In 2015, Taiwan’s EPA has recovered 31,890 sky lanterns, but this doesn’t include the ones the have disappeared into the deep mountains and valleys.” Al places a GPS tracking device onto his sky lantern in an attempt to recover his sky lantern. After 2 tries, he’s finally able to track his lantern into the mountains, but to no avail. Instead of his own lantern, he picked up stray lanterns.

Video in Mandarin, just watch him go into those mountains!

Last year, he returns to PingXi to try out a environmentally friendly lantern. This time, a team from Bank of Culture was looking at how to make a eco-friendly sky lantern. The pointed out the major issues with the current system:

  1. The rings that hold the sky lantern are often times trapping animals
  2. Half-burnt lanterns will end up being trash in the forest

They were hoping to tackle this with bamboo frame which would burn up and combustion aides along the rim to help the lantern burn up midair.

They were hoping to tackle this with bamboo frame which would burn up and combustion aides along the rim to help the lantern burn up midair.

Video in Mandarin again, but you can set Youtube to translate to English (pretty accurate)

Finally in 2018 now, the team is close to perfecting a sky lantern that doesn’t hurt the Earth. With one perfect shot, the sky lantern burns up in midair, taking the frame along with it. The team says that now that the sky lantern will not produce any trash, there is still the issue with carbon emission. The tactic for that is that the price of each sky lantern sold in the future will contain the cost to plant a tree to balance the carbon emission.

Video in Mandarin, but we just start at the beautiful release of the environmentally sky lantern. Pretty nice seeing the lantern just disappear in midair.

“While this is a beautiful tradition, it comes at a scary price,” says Alexander in his first video. Knowing that environmental awareness is on the rise, the team from Bank of Culture is trying to allow these traditions to live on without fear of being banned for pollution. Next time you’re in Taiwan and visiting Pingxi for a sky lantern, maybe ask if there are eco-friendly ones. Or strap a GPS on it and see if you can retrieve your own trash.


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