I know I’m not alone here to wonder why there was a public plastic balloon release yesterday in memory of the late Alfie Evans? One moment our news feeds are impregnated with the “Blue Planet Effect” knee jerk media bandwagon and recent news that the Government is banning plastic straws and cotton buds (a good thing) and yet yesterday we see “thousands of balloons” released as a “beautiful tribute“. Seems quite stupid to me and I wonder if the majority of public ‘plastic outcry’ is mere lip service?
Social media agrees, coming alight with negativity, with one Twitter commentator calling it “mass littering” and Facebook user Nicola Faulks citing “a tide of plastic pollution“, with many additional commentators in agreement, suggesting a ban of the practice and for it to be made illegal.
Balloons Are A Danger To Wildlife
“Debris from balloons represents a danger, because animals may become entangled in ribbons preventing normal foraging activity. Animals also mistake balloon debris for food and ingest the material, which may block the stomach or intestines and lead to starvation.” Source: Wageningen Marine Research.
Environmental conservation organisation and charity Balloons Blow have published a list of environmentally friendly alternatives to balloon releases and other celebrations, including blowing bubbles. Perhaps a much better tribute to Alfie?
Marine Conservation Society
The Marine Conservation Society is the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife.
Emma Cunningham, Pollution Campaign Officer at the MCS says:
“There’s an awful lot of confusion over balloons, especially what they’re made of and how they break down. Some people believe that because latex is natural, balloons made of it are harmless once let go.
“This just isn’t the case. Latex may last for up to four years in the marine environment. The latest research also shows that only around 13 per cent of balloons burst into small pieces whilst more than 80 per cent come down intact.
“This could explain the rise in balloon litter levels we have seen on beaches, which will have a great impact on wildlife.”
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UK Council Bans
In December 2017, Neath Port Talbot council extended their ban on sky lanterns to include balloon releases from council land.
A council spokesman said:
“We are extremely pleased to have taken this step, as the negative impact of balloons and sky lanterns on wildlife, in particular marine life, is well documented.
“There are reports that dolphins, turtles, seabirds, even whales have all been killed by balloons, either through ingestion of the balloon in mistake for prey species such as jellyfish, or through entanglement with the string.
“The ban includes biodegradable balloons, as balloons cannot degrade quickly enough to not prove a hazard for wildlife.
“We understand that there are different reasons that people may wish to take part in organised balloon release events, however there are other activities that can be undertaken.
“The Council’s stance on this issue is in support of the Marine Conservation Society’s ‘Don’t Let Go Campaign’, alongside a growing number of other Councils throughout Wales and the rest of the UK.
“We hope this move by Neath Port Talbot Council will help to raise awareness of the issue and will encourage other Councils to take a similar approach.”
Elsewhere In The World
There are already bans on balloon releases in place in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia together with Florida, Virginia, Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas and California in the US.