The problem with balloons and sky lanterns
When balloons and sky lanterns (sometimes known as Chinese lanterns) are released, they don’t just disappear.
They float back down to earth where they are the same as any other litter. But balloons and sky lanterns are particularly dangerous pieces of litter. Balloons are mistaken for food by many species of wildlife, especially 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.
What is MCS doing?
We want to get outdoor balloon and sky lantern releases stopped. Read our Pollution Policy and Position Statement.
We do not want to stop people having fun – we just want to protect our vulnerable marine species and reduce litter.
In Wales, we are working with Keep Wales Tidy, the Welsh eco-schools and Cardiff Council. As a result of a petition in 2012, urging the Welsh Government to ban all intentional outdoor balloon and lantern releases, the Welsh Environment Minister asked officials to collect further evidence on this issue. In May 2014 this evidence was published.
The evidence highlights a significant fire hazard posed by sky lanterns, particularly to crops and aviation. It also acknowledges the ongoing risk to coastal rescue services who are falsely alerted to call-outs (when lanterns are mistaken for flares). The Minister for Natural Resources and Food will be writing to all welsh local authorities encouraging them to bring in a voluntary ban on council owned land.
We continue to encourage all schools, organisations and businesses in Wales to sign a pledge to not release balloons or lanterns, to find out more click here.
We encourage all organisations that are planning balloon or lantern releases to choose an event that will not threaten wildlife. We are trying to get every council to ban releases on their land – many have done so already.
To learn more about what happens to balloons and lanterns when they are released and to see some alternative ideas click on the link to download our booklet.
How you can help
If you're on Facebook and/or Twitter, you can take action here.
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.
Unfortunately we do not have the resources to contact every balloon or lantern release event organiser ourselves, however 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.
If you are planning a balloon or lantern release, please try one of our wildlife friendly alternatives instead.
- Beachwatch - beach cleaning
- Good Beach Guide
- Pollution and litter problems
- Campaigns and policy
- Reports and downloads
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