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Will the fireworks industry survive the ban on fireworks on New Year’s Eve?

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Fires, serious injuries from fireworks, accidents, violence and the consequences of alcohol abuse – there is always a lot to do for rescue workers on New Year’s Eve. In order not to further overload the hospitals in the pandemic, the federal government has therefore implemented a ban on the sale of New Year’s Eve rockets and firecrackers. This should basically lead to the fact that on December 31. less is blasted.

In addition, some cities, such as Berlin, Stuttgart or Hamburg, have declared prohibition zones for rockets and fireworks. Some federal states have also declared “no-firecrackers” zones for busy squares and streets, such as Reinland-Palatinate or Saarland. The editorial network Germany has created a complete overview of the rules in the respective federal states.

“On no other day of the year do so many people injure their hands as on New Year’s Eve”, the German Society for Hand Surgery and Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery (DGOU) has been warning for years. Around 50 to 60 serious hand injuries were there in a single New Year’s Eve in a metropolitan hospital. Mostly they are teenagers and young men under 30, but also older men between 50 and 60 years. Many of them suffer irreversible damage. But the doctors fear that some citizens could now build fireworks themselves or get illegal firecrackers abroad. “Accidents with self-made or non-certified explosive devices can lead to even more serious injuries. Even outdated explosive devices from previous years should not be detonated in order not to expose themselves to any unnecessary risk of injury, ”said a recently published statement by the DGOU.

The pyrotechnics industry makes more than 90 percent of annual sales on New Year’s Eve

For the pyrotechnics industry, the sales ban is a disaster. According to the company, the New Year’s Eve business accounts for more than 90 percent of their turnover. Now the revenues break away. In many places, deliveries to discounters, supermarkets, hardware stores and other retailers had already started. As this is a commission business, the fireworks remain the property of the manufacturers until they are sold. Now the rockets have to be picked up again and stored for a year. “If they are stored in a cool and dry place, fireworks have no expiry date and can be kept for a year or two,” said Klaus Gotzen, Managing Director of the Association of the Pyrotechnic Industry (VPI), the German Press Agency. However, this is associated with additional costs.

The industry is therefore demanding compensation from the state. Otherwise there is a risk of “bankruptcy of the entire industry”, emphasized the Federal Association for Pyrotechnics and Artificial Fireworks (BVPK) and sent a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) and the Federal Council. According to the association, around 3,000 people work in the manufacture of pyrotechnics in Germany. Another 10,000 people are employed in fireworks, most of which also sell fireworks on New Year’s Eve. “In both areas, practically all businesses and people are affected by the ban,” said BVPK spokesman Dirk Abolins.

So far, most of the companies have not yet been able to take advantage of state support. “The high season for large fireworks is in summer when there are many celebrations, festivals and other outdoor events. Due to the corona pandemic, sales collapsed almost completely, as in the entire event industry, ”says BVPK spokesman Abolins. “The fact that the turnover on New Year’s Eve is completely absent is likely to be the end for the majority of companies. Because: The entire logistics for sales on New Year’s Eve were in full swing at the time of the ban, just two weeks before the start of sales. ”He estimates that the return delivery and additional storage costs make up another 20 percent of total sales, depending on the company.

Even before Corona, a majority in Germany was in favor of a firecracker ban

A large part of the production takes place in Asia, with almost all imports coming from China. However, the market leader Weco produces 40 percent of its total sales in its German production facilities in Kiel, Eitorf and Freiberg. This makes it “the only fireworks company in Europe with substantial in-house production”. The company claims that it has a market share of 65 percent and employs 400 people. The sales ban put Weco in a “existence-threatening situation”. “I emphasize it again very clearly, without financial help in the double-digit millions, we will no longer exist next year,” says Managing Director Schreiber.

Even before the corona pandemic, the negative consequences of the New Year’s bang were always the cause of debates about a ban on private fireworks, most recently intensified last year. In metropolises such as New York, Paris or London and in many inner cities in Austria, Switzerland and Italy, private lighting of fireworks has been prohibited for a long time. Firecracker prohibition zones have also been set up in more and more German cities in recent years.

According to a survey on behalf of the editorial network (RND), 57 percent of Germans in December 2019 supported a firecracker ban on New Year’s Eve. In this pandemic year, the approval of the federal government’s sales ban in a survey by the opinion research institute YouGov on behalf of the German Press Agency was 71 percent.

“Times are definitely not getting any easier”

The industry tries to refute the arguments of the firecrackers opponents. She considers the risk of fine dust pollution to be excessive. Indeed, the Federal Environment Agency recently reduced the information on particulate matter emissions from fireworks from the original 4,500 tons per year to more than half (2,050 tons). This amount corresponds to almost one percent of the total amount of particulate matter released in Germany. With a share of 0.0008 percent of German greenhouse gas emissions, fireworks do not play an essential role for the climate.

BVPK spokesman Abolins argues that rubbish only makes up a small part of total municipal waste and should also be related to other festivals such as the Cologne Carnival: “The topic of rubbish on New Year’s Eve is actually only due to the fact that it is New Year’s Day is present in the area. Unfortunately, many consumers do not clear away the remains of the fireworks. ”

The industry also emphasizes that the safety requirements for legal fireworks are great and that quieter rockets are also being offered.

But regardless of Corona, it could become uncomfortable for industry in the future. “The New Year’s Eve fireworks have been under attack for the past few years. The topics that are mainly applied against it vary. Unfortunately, people are trying less and less to find a compromise that everyone can live with, ”said Abolins spokesman. “In any case, times are not getting any easier.”

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