Should Disposable Barbecues Be Banned in Beauty Spots?

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Bonfire in West Sussex
Bonfire in West Sussex

This month Change.org are delivering a petition to the government to demand that disposable barbecues are completely outlawed. It would then be illegal to sell single use barbecues in Britain. Environmentalists want to ban the sale of disposable barbecues to prevent the general public visiting national parks and beauty spots and accidentally setting alight grass, woodland and other green commons and farmland.

Nature enthusiasts are petitioning to make purchasing a single use barbecue illegal. They want this to apply across the UK as soon as possible. This is following several large fires that have occurred in different areas of the country. The fire service fear all these unwanted flames have been caused by accidentally allowing a foil barbecue to burn through to materials beneath. Leaving the metallic rubbish container still burning after an outdoor meal, can also lead to the ignition of dry organic materials, say Fire Chiefs.

Fires can be started accidentally by visitors lighting barbecues when camping or hiking in the countryside. Firefighters are usually able to tackle the blazes which can destruct vast areas of dry land during the summer months. It can take several days and be dangerous work for emergency services.

The result is that natural habitats of many mammals, insects and other creatures can be irrevocably decimated. Plant life and ecosystems can be damaged permanently which his bad news for the environment which is already under constant threats from building development and global warming.

Fires can then reignite unexpectedly like the incident in Wareham in Dorset on the 18th May where a spokesperson for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said “Firefighters have found evidence of deep subterranean burning deep within a tree trunk which made it to the surface and then was fanned by the wind.” they continued to declare “help us by not lighting fires, having barbecues in the open or doing anything that may set alight grass, foliage, heath or woodland.” (6)

At the end of May 550 acres (220 hectares) of forest were damaged in Wareham in south west England. Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service “asked the public not to have any barbecues over the coming days in case they got out of control, and urged people to avoid the area.” (5)

Some British citizens disagree that the throw away tin trays should be ditched for good. Alternatively other adults argue that if disposable barbecues are banned then other cookers may be used instead which could be even more of a danger to human health and the natural habitats of wildlife.

Melina at Silver Surfers points out that “As they are portable (barbecues) they may be used in unsuitable locations such as under trees or near long grass, bushes or fences which may easily catch fire. They can easily tip over. They may take several hours to cool down and so are often left whilst still hot.” (8)

Others say that we need to educate visitors on the hazards that can be encountered when heading out to the great outdoors instead. This viewpoint argues that teaching people the correct way to enjoy their time in the countryside without disrupting nature and taking their rubbish away is the best policy.

Enjoying quality time socialising around the campfire in summer is one of the wonderful simple pleasures of living in Britain, for people of all ages. Parents have called for more picnic areas and safely built barbecue spaces for families and friends to be able to cook dinner outdoors easily.

Small barbecues of all sorts are more affordable and it can give people on a limited income a lot of joy to grill outside where they live so they would not want to be prevented from doing so especially as citizens have been spending more time at home because of preventing the spread of Covid-19. One young woman from Portsmouth said “we so enjoyed our mini barbecue in the garden. We shared our grilled meats with our elderly neighbour Peter who lives alone but was able to safely distance and join us for dinner in our adjoining gardens.”

Mark Halll Communications Manager at Businesswaste.co.uk estimates that there are “over a million disposable barbecues sold in the UK each year.” (7) He explained that at Ilkley Moor the ancient moorland in West Yorkshire there were “two fires over the Bank Holiday weekend – despite laws having been in place since 1900 prohibiting citizens from having fires on the moor. Firefighters tackled the blazes for several days to control the damage, but a number of eyewitnesses were appalled to report that there were still thrill-seekers holding barbecues in the area.” The out of control bonfire incidents can be life threatening to responders and also cause respiratory problems for residents in the locality. Another side effect can be a rise in pollution levels in the vicinity of the burnt land.

According to New Scientist last year the UK had 96 large wildfires which is more than any other year on record. Adam Vaughan at New Scientist warned that more dry weather because of climate change was contributing to the increase. New Scientist also point out that if the fire services are dealing with rural blazes they are diverting critical resources away from communities in towns and cities that need them on standby. (9)

With predictions of a serious recession following the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that Great Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland all prioritise their resources efficiently. Emergency services need to focus on accidental fires at and near to properties in built up locations. Banning disposable barbecues anywhere in our nature reserves is probably a sensible way forward. Ensuring there are plenty of designated picnic areas with permanently installed non-flammable stations that are designed specifically for lighting safe barbecues can offer a secure alternative for those looking to eat together ‘al fresco’, without spoiling the outward bound experience.

Educational resources for all parents, schools and youth clubs would be a great idea and simple videos to inform the public about controlling campfires could work well. Fire service approved recommendations on choosing better quality and more environmentally friendly equipment to heat up food when camping could be part of a program to develop best practice for anyone spending the day or a weekend in the countryside.

More volunteers and park rangers at well loved beauty spots and in national parks to educate and guide visitors and monitor the situation during the dry months would be a good solution. Surely prevention is always better than cure when it comes to taking care of our precious natural surroundings.

(1) ‘The Best Portable BBQs on Test’ Natalie Hardwick, Reviews Editor, BBC Good Food, 9 June 2020 ‘best portable BBQs’, Natalie Hardwick, BBC Good Food

(2) Ban Disposable BBQs, Change.Org Petition, 9 June 2020, ‘Ban disposable BBQs’ Change.org petition

(3) ‘How To Keep Food Warm For Hours With No Quality Loss’ Mark Jenner, FoodFireFriends, 26 May 2020 ‘How to keep food warm for hours’ Mark Jenner, FoodFireFriends

(4) ‘Thursley Common fire updates as firefighters battle 20-hectare blaze for second day – recap’ Kirstie McCrum, Laura Hartley, Jamie Phillips, Emma Pengelly, Surrey Live, 1 June 2020 ‘Thursley Common fire update’ McCrum, Hartley, Phillips, Pengelly, Surrey Live

(5) ‘Wareham Forest fire crews ‘stretched’ at blaze site’ BBC News, 24 May 2020, ‘Wareham Forest fire crews stretched at blaze site’ BBC News

(6) ‘Cause of second fire at Wareham Forest revealed’ Ellie Maslin Daily Echo (Bournemouth), 10 June 2020 ‘Cause of second fire at Wareham Forest revealed’ Ellie Maslin, Daily Echo

(7) ‘Disposable BBQs ‘should be banned’ to prevent further devastating wildfires’ Mark Hall, Businesswaste.co.uk, 25 April 2019 ‘Disposable BBQs should be banned to prevent further devastating wildfires’ Mark Hall, Businesswaste.co.uk

(8) ‘Should disposable barbecues be banned?’ Melina, Silversurfers, 29 May 2020 ‘Should disposable barbecues be banned?’ Melina, Silversurfers

(9) ‘The UK has already had more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record’ Adam Vaughan 23 April 2019, ‘UK has already had more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record’ Adam Vaughan, New Scientist