What is more environmental friendly: Match-sticks or lighters?

What is more environmental friendly: Match-sticks or lighters?


We’ve all been there. You need to light a candle, a cigarette, or you’re camping and you want to start a fire. So, you ask someone for a light and they hand you this:

  • A lighter.
  • A match stick is no less.

You thank them and try to light your object of choice. You flick and flick. The friction of the spark wheel leaves a stinging imprint on your thumb. This must be a bad first date, because there’s no spark! You question your intelligence. Are you that dumb that you can’t light a simple lighter?

You’re not. It’s not you, it’s the lighter. And matches are better than lighters.

Is it environmentally better to use safety matches or a fuel-filled lighter to start a fire while camping?

It might seem obvious that using a single paper or wooden match beats carrying a plastic container filled with fossil fuel. But there’s another relevant question: How many matches would it take to get the flames going? A trace of butane lighter fuel might be a more efficient tool.

If you go by the actual materials involved, cardboard matches are the best because they use a renewable material as the fuel rather than fossil fuels.

The problem is the real environmental impact depends on the process for producing and shipping the materials. Even if using a match doesn’t use any petroleum products, the factory producing them and trucks shipping them certainly do.

Well with refillable lighters you also have to take into account that if it’s going to be used more than once it’s going to require purchase of a separate product that will also result in waste. I’m leaning towards the matches on this one. My complete off-the-wall guess is that a lighter is much more inefficient regarding the amount of energy used to make it and use it compared to matches (with matches also having the added benefit of being made from a renewable resource).

And there are other factors to consider. How many trees were cut to make a commercial batch of paper or wooden matchsticks? Were the trees replanted after harvesting? Where and how were the phosphorus and other chemicals in the match head obtained? How were the matches transported to the point of sale?

On the other side of the scale, is the lighter disposable or refillable? Where did its plastic or metal come from, not to mention the carbon wick?

It’s enough to make a philosophical camper turn back to matchless methods of fire starting, like using flint and steel to make sparks, or a magnifying glass that focuses the sun’s rays on dry grass, or a bow-driven friction drill to light tinder, then kindling and then wood.

Lighters are Easy to Lose

People are constantly misplacing their lighters. They’re so easy to forget! They’re tiny and plastic, perfect for slipping out of your pocket, getting buried in a drawer, or your friend simply stealing it after lighting a joint and hoping you won’t notice (you haven’t). Matches come in a nice paper case that’s easy to write your name or number on. Your move, Lighters.

You Get Multiple Matches in a Match Box

And only one lighter with a lighter.

Matchbox Twenty Was a Band

They had that great song 3AM, which you just learned is not a love song, but about Rob Thomas’ mom who had cancer. Light a match for Rob Thomas’ mom! Also how many bands can you name that start with, “Lighter”? According to Spotify: none.

Matches Never Run Out of Fluid

And lighters do constantly.

Lighting a Cigarette with a Match requires you to be ‘pro’

Anyone can light a cigarette with a lighter. It takes skill, poise, and talent to light a cigarette with a match.

Lighting a Candle with a Match is Easier

They even have matches that are super long so you can get right in there, unlike lighters that cover you hand in soot.

No One Uses Lighters at Concerts Anymore

Been to a concert lately? I have. Everyone holds up their lit cellphone screens not lit lighters, which is so much less of a fire hazard.

The impact of either has got to be so insignificant as to not matter. Imagine the amount of lighter fluid you burn over the course of one lighter’s lifetime; there’s what, maybe 50mL of butane, and it takes you a few weeks or months to go through it (assuming regular use) — meanwhile you fill up your car with 50L of petroleum, one thousand times as much, in the same amount of time.

In that sense I would go with matches purely because they tend to be wood or cardboard, rather than plastic, and will therefore decompose in landfill instead of hanging around for 500 years. But don’t make a big deal out of it. Pick your battles, and all that.

About author

Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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