German cities urged to ban polluting fireworks at New Year

Taming firework pollution at New Year is the latest campaign of a German environmental group already pursuing diesel carmakers. DUH says six cities are exemplary in banning "archaic" pyrotechnics from city centers.

For most of the year in Germany, fireworks are not publicly available and are only supposed to be used with a license.

But on the last three working days of each year, shop shelves bulge with various rockets, Catherine wheels and Roman candles — ready for a mass amnesty on New Year's Eve.

Most of these firework displays are of an informal nature and are impromptu events.

They typically involve people rushing onto the street outside their homes or the bars they were frequenting around midnight, and letting fly. 

Nature and Environment | 27.02.2018

However, the state-funded environmental watchdog Environment Action Germany (DUH) is calling on cities to consider banning members of the public from setting off their pyrotechnics in areas struggling to meet air quality guidelines.

Stuttgart fireworks in 2014

An end to archaic crackers

The DUH also called for an outright ban on "archaic" fireworks and crackers using black powder (gunpowder), rather than a cleaner substitute.

Professionals using cleaner launch systems should stage proper firework displays "which everybody can enjoy" outside the city centers, said DUH executive Jürgen Resch.

Audios and videos on the topic

DUH is best known for leading the charge in Germany to improve air quality standards from particulates like nitrous oxides

It launched a string of contentious lawsuits seeking restrictions or bans on cars — especially with diesel engines — on German roads. 

DUH alluded to this in its appeal on fireworks. The lobby group said that on New Year's Eve alone, 5,000 tons of particulate matter was blasted into Germany's atmosphere.

According to DUH, that equates to 17 percent of the total particulate emissions from traffic in a year.

Read more: Diesel vehicle ban along key autobahn

Fireworks in Berlin

Concentration levels

Depending on the weather, fine particulate concentration levels would soar far higher than the threshold permitted of 50 micrograms per cubic meter that can only be breached on 35 days per year.

Over New Year last year, Germany's federal environment agency had measured more than 1,800 micrograms shortly after midnight in Leipzig in the eastern state of Saxony.

In Munich and other cities, samples taken each hour on New Year's Eve typcially exceeded 1,000 micrograms — readings that were harmful to people with asthma, other breathing ailments, pregnant women and children, said the DUH.

Some cities have acted

The lobby group in Friday's statement went on to reel off other drawbacks of "archaic" cracker and fireworks rockets:

  • property fires ignited by errant projectiles
  • personal injuries
  • tens of thousands of used fireworks left where they land on the streets.

Constance, Goslar, Bielefeld, Straubing, Ravensburg and most recently, Hanover have removed traditional fireworks from their inner city areas, the DUH said.

Other regional authorities had applied firework restrictions for nature conservancy areas.

ipj/msh (dpa, AFP)

10 great places to see in the New Year

Berlin

More than a million people gather in Berlin between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Living up to its reputation of a party city, the celebrations continue on the street well after the midnight fireworks have died down.

10 great places to see in the New Year

London

The New Year is welcomed in the British capital with Big Ben ringing from the Houses of Parliament. Then fireworks are set off over the Thames River. Those wishing for the best view of this spectacle should head to the London Eye, Europe's biggest Ferris wheel, but tickets are very hard to get, as are tbose for other vantage points.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Athens

For Greeks, New Year celebrations are more important than Christmas. Apart from enjoying good food and wine, they traditionally play cards after the fireworks either at home or at a casino. The celebrations on the central Syntagma Square, not far from the Acropolis, have shrunk in size since the financial crisis. A good view of Athens can be had from Mount Lycabettus.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Paris

On the Champ de Mars and on the Place du Trocadéro, there is none of the noise or nasty smells usually associated with fireworks. Instead, you can enjoy a light and laser show that elegantly illuminates the Eiffel Tower. On the Champs-Elysées, with a view of the Arc de Triomphe, Parisians and visitors gather to embrace and wish each other "Bonne année."

10 great places to see in the New Year

Rome

The meeting spot of Christians from around the world is the Piazza San Pietro or St. Peter's Square. They gather there on the last night of the year to wait for the pope to arrive at St. Peter's Basilica, where he personally celebrates the New Year's Mass. Tickets for the service are free of charge, but usually run out quickly as there are only 10,000 available.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Prague

Here, the fireworks launched from the surrounding hills illuminate the golden roofs of the Czech capital. The custom here is to cut an apple in half - if the pips form a star, then you are said to be in for good fortune in the coming year. If the pips form the shape of a cross, though, it might be a good idea to cut another apple in half.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Madrid

There's a big party on the Puerta del Sol, the central square in the historical city center. In addition to sparkling wine, you should be sure to bring some grapes to the party. It is the tradition in Spain to eat a grape every time the bell chimes at midnight. Couples often feed each other with the grapes. It is said to bring luck in the New Year.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Madeira

A lot of tourists come especially for New Year to this Portuguese island, nearly 1,000 kilometers southwest of Lisbon, to enjoy what the Guinness book of Records claims is the biggest firework display in the world. Festively decorated cruise liners anchor in the harbor of Funchal. After midnight, the traditional New Year's chicken soup (Canja da Galinha) is served.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Geneva

A slightly more expensive way to see in the New Year is by watching the fireworks while having a glass of champagne after a six-course meal on board a paddle-wheel steamer on Lake Geneva. The setting is very romantic, as the shores of the biggest French-Swiss lake are artistically lit when darkness descends.

10 great places to see in the New Year

Istanbul

The city of two continents celebrates the New Year on the central Taksim Square. The best view of the fireworks over the Bosporus can be had from the Galata Bridge. The occasion is given a more tranquil celebration on the Asian side of Istanbul - that's where you can enjoy an uninterrupted view over the Turkish city at night.

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