Updated: Aug 25
At this time of year, you (and your long-suffering pets) won’t fail to notice the crackle and popping of fireworks as people celebrate bonfire night, both at home, and at organised displays.
Fireworks were originally made from saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal. Today’s fireworks tend to contain extra chemicals, to provide special effects. The ingredients are mixed together and put in a shell, then the shell is wrapped up and a fuse is added.
How do fireworks work?
No matter how old you are, fireworks are always a source of enjoyment and wonder. Here are some of the most popular fireworks and exactly what happens once you light them:
Rockets: When rockets are lit, a substance in the firework explodes, and this creates a build-up of gases which propels the rocket into the air. When the rocket reaches its maximum height, a spark occurs which makes it explode, and very fine metal powders are released, creating the spectacle.
Roman candles: These are long tubes that shoot chemicals from one end, creating an effect that looks like flaming stars. The chemicals are separated by layers of sawdust inside of the tube.
Fountains: These cone-shaped fireworks sit on the ground and gases build up and escape from a hole in the top, which propels differently coloured sparks into the air.
Sparklers: Sparklers are one of the most familiar fireworks, and they are long pieces of wire. The top half of the wire is covered in chemicals which react and give off sparks when they are lit. A sparkler can heat up to the same temperature as a welding torch, so they should be handle with a lot of care.
What gives fireworks their colour?
It’s usually magnesium that causes the bright white light that fireworks give off. Other ingredients in the fireworks can give off different kinds of light when they are ignited, and this is what gives fireworks their colour. Other ingredients give off different types of light when they become hot. This how the colours in fireworks are created.
Can fireworks be recycled?
Fireworks generally can’t be recycled, and they should be soaked in water after use to make sure there is no flammable material remaining. Sparklers in particular are not recyclable, as the metal is coated with fuels and oxidisers, so they can’t be recycled with other metals. They can be put in the bin, but only after they have been soaked in water and allowed to cool fully.
However safe you think you are, you can never be safe enough with fireworks. Follow these tips to stay safe and sound this November:
Isolate fireworks in one spot so they are safer, and easier to clear up. A hard, smooth surface is ideal.
Before clearing up any debris, make sure the fireworks are completely extinguished
Soak them in water for 15-20 minutes
Never put use fireworks in your bin, as the chemicals can contaminate recyclable waste
Sweep all the debris into one pile to make it easier to dispose of
Do not place used fireworks in your recycling bin. Fireworks often contain chemicals capable of contaminating any recyclable goods in your bin.
Never attempt to re-light a firework that doesn’t go off. Wait around 20 minutes, then soak it in water to make sure it won’t ignite.