We went on a short walk starting from near Pingxi today, although due to inclement weather, we only did a small part of what was available (and therefore are definitely planning to come back when the sky is in our favour). The rain wasn’t really a problem, this part of Taiwan reminds me quite a bit of the Welsh valleys, so the wet just adds to the homely feeling. The only downer were the many carcasses of sky lanterns littering the trail. Within five minutes of starting the walk, we had seen three hanging in the trees or pasted against stones in the river. By the time we finished, we’d encountered nearly 20 in a very short 2km.
It’s clear that despite the recycling efforts of locals (who get $1 for a bamboo frame and $8 for a wire one), there are still many which remain littering the environment. But it shouldn’t have to be this way, in recent years there have been efforts made to bring this lantern releasing tradition into the more environmentally aware 21st century. 2018 has seen the development of a lantern which burns up entirely in the sky, by completely eliminating the treated paper and wire frames which get left in the trees. (I can’t find in English language information about whether or where they are on sale yet though – or if/how the vendors plan to offset carbon emissions.)
I know it’s not a straightforward case of just outright banning the lanterns. For one thing, they form an important part of the tourist industry here now. But I think it is kind of shameful that such a beautiful area is littered with waste and the authorities are not actively and enthusiastically persuing an alternative. If you are planning to go to Pingxi, maybe skip on the lantern, go explore some of their lovely nearby hiking trails instead.
*A couple of pictures are from previous outings in the area.
Is Taiwan’s Famed Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival an Environmental Plague? – A thoroughly considered article which puts forward some possibilities for the future.
Making Pingxi Lantern Festival Green and Sustainable – (Taiwan News) – Not quite as optimistic as the title sounds.
Environmentalists Say Number Of Sky Lanterns Should Be Limited In Ping Xi – (The News Lens) – This offers several good reasons for why this tradition should be limited.
Innovation leads to brighter future for Taiwan lantern tradition – (Xinhua) – A more recent article with information on an alternative.