Don't get the Royal Wedding blues, or reds or yellows - try some balloon alternatives

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 14 April 2011

Don’t get the Royal Wedding blues, or reds or yellows - try some balloon alternatives Marine Conservation Society says protect marine wildlife and ‘Don’t Let Go’ on April 29th With street parties planned to celebrate the nuptials of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is urging revellers not to release balloons as part of the fun because of the dangers they pose to marine wildlife.

Don’t get the Royal Wedding blues, or reds or yellows - try some balloon alternatives Marine Conservation Society says protect marine wildlife and ‘Don’t Let Go’ on April 29th With street parties planned to celebrate the nuptials of HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is urging revellers not to release balloons as part of the fun because of the dangers they pose to marine wildlife. Balloon litter often ends up floating at sea and is deadly for many marine wildlife species. Marine turtles and seabirds are particularly at risk, as they feed on prey that floats at the surface. Turtles accidentally mistake balloons for their favorite food, jellyfish, and swallow them. Marine wildlife can also become entangled in ribbons attached to balloons and drown. Once swallowed, a balloon may block the digestive tract and eventually lead to death by starvation. Other species, including whales and dolphins are also known to have died as a result of eating balloons. MCS Litter Campaigns Officer, Emma Snowden, says mass balloon releases have been banned by many authorities around the world including some UK councils. “MCS receives an increasing number of calls each year from members of the public worried about the effects of local balloon releases. Despite the increase in public awareness of the harm balloons can have on wildlife, our annual marine litter surveys have revealed that the number of balloons and balloon pieces on Britain’s beaches have almost tripled over the last ten years. “MCS says it’s not only balloons that are causing a problem. People are increasingly releasing Chinese lanterns which they see as a safer alternative - however this is far from the case. The lantern frame can also be dangerous to wildlife and according to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), to humans too: “Last year saw a significant increase in the number of lifeboat callouts to false alarms caused by Chinese lanterns and the RNLI asks anyone planning to release them anywhere near the sea to contact the Coastguard and let them know beforehand, “said RNLI’s Head of Fleet Operations Hugh Fogarty. MCS says the message is clear: “Our ‘Don’t Let Go’ campaign isn’t designed to put a dampener on the Royal celebrations. We are asking people to not let go and try one of our wildlife friendly alternatives instead. Studies show that balloons floating in seawater deteriorate at a much slower rate than a latex balloon on land. Some balloons retain their elasticity for well over a year. But however long it might take for balloons to degrade, they can certainly stay intact in an animal’s gut long after ingestion, and long enough to cause death by starvation. “MCS says there are lots of alternatives to a mass release: hide a few royal prizes inside air filled balloons, release them indoors and then pop them to find the gift; try a relay race to work off some of your royal wedding street party food - each team member has to run a short distance and sit on a balloon to pop it. The first team to pop all their balloons wins! Hire a balloon artist to create balloon animals. Try a virtual balloon release - They do exist! Via the internet you can sponsor balloons, set them off from a precise location and track them online to see where they end up - just ensure they really are virtual though! You can visit www.mcsuk.org for more advice.

Actions you can take


Did you know?…

On UK beaches levels of litter have doubled in the past 20 years

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

Litter has increased by 135% since 1994, with plastics increasing by a staggering 180%

Stop the plastic tide

Support our appeal to turn the tide on plastics.

Find out more