The problem with balloons and sky lanterns
When balloons and sky lanterns (sometimes known as Chinese lanterns) are released, they don’t just simply disappear.
They float back down to earth, either whole or in pieces, adding to existing litter. Balloons and sky lanterns are particularly dangerous pieces of litter. Balloons are mistaken for food by many species of wildlife, particularly turtles.
Once balloons have been eaten they can block digestive systems and cause animals to starve. The string on balloons can also entangle and trap animals.
If pieces of balloon were to be dropped directly on the ground you could be fined for littering, but because they are let go - not dropped - they are not classed as litter under current legislation, despite the fact that what goes up comes back down! This is something we want to see changed.
What is MCS doing?
Our long term aim is to stop all intentional balloon and lantern releases around the UK and to have balloons and lanterns classed as litter. You can read our full asks and evidence in our Pollution Policy and Position Statement.
We are working hard to persuade councils all over the country to ban the intentional release of balloons and sky lanterns on their land. The traditional release of balloons to mark a special occasion can be replaced with so many more environmentally friendly gestures – please click here for some alternative ideas.
The list of councils that have brought in voluntary bans on council owned property can be viewed here. A little nudge might just prompt the remaining Councils to follow suit, so if your council isn’t on the list then you can take action!
How you can help
For us to be aware of every planned balloon or lantern release in the UK would be an impossible task. This is where you come in - schools, organisations , businesses, individuals – we need YOU to help us to persuade your local council - wherever you are in the UK - to ban the release of balloons and lanterns. We need YOU to suggest alternatives to mark any events.
To help you in your campaign, click on the link to download our booklet.
If you're on Facebook and/or Twitter, you can take action here.
If you are not confident in doing this yourself, you can report an upcoming release in your area and we will do our best to get in touch and ask them to change their plans.
You can also use our Don't Let Go Action Pack to try and get balloon or sky lantern releases stopped in your area, please let us know how you get on. Report your success here or write on our facebook page or tweet us.
Note: Previous Success in Wales
Following a joint campaign in Wales in 2012, MCS and Keep Wales Tidy persuaded Cardiff Council to impose a ban on the intentional release of balloons and lanterns on council owned land. As part of this process, the Welsh Environment Minister asked officials to collect further evidence which was published in May 2013. The significant fire hazard posed by sky lanterns, particularly to crops and aviation was highlighted and the ongoing risk to coastal rescue services who are falsely called out when lanterns are mistaken for distress flares. Of course, this is in addition to the devastating threat to marine life and wildlife. We encourage all schools, organisations and businesses in Wales to continue to sign a pledge to not release balloons or lanterns, to find out more click here.
Our success in Wales and the collection of data is wholly relevant to the rest of the UK.
- Beachwatch - beach cleaning
- Good Beach Guide
- Pollution and litter problems
- Campaigns and policy
- Reports and downloads
- Clean seas and beaches
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