Balloon litter on beach in Scotland GBBC Tara Proud

Don't Let Go: Balloon & sky lantern releases

3 minute read

There’s one thing to remember when it comes to balloons and sky lanterns – Don’t Let Go! Because what goes up must come down and when it does, it can be fatal to wildlife.

Why are balloon and sky lantern releases a problem?

Letting balloons go and setting off sky lanterns may seem like a bit of harmless fun, but what happens when they float out of your sight and disappear from your thoughts? They land somewhere – either intact or in bits with their trailing strings and plastic ties.

This balloon litter can be eaten by marine life, entangle turtles or sea birds and may result in premature death by choking, starvation or strangulation.

Many people don’t know that balloons and lanterns pose these threats to wildlife - which is why there are so many fundraising or awareness events still using them.

While anyone knowingly throwing litter on the ground could be fined, letting go of a balloon or a lantern, which is just as problematic, isn’t treated in the same way.

That’s why we're highlighting the issue with our Don’t Let Go messaging – to help stop harm to wildlife and reduce litter levels on our beautiful beaches.

Some important facts

Dead Guillemot entangled in balloon litter Richard Gilbert

Credit: Richard Gilbert

  • Over the past 5 years, we've found on average 3 balloons per 100m during our Great British Beach Clean!
  • Balloons marketed as ‘biodegradable’ can last up to four years in the marine environment
  • Dolphins, whales, turtles and seabirds have all been reported with balloons in their stomachs
  • Marine turtles are particularly vulnerable. The digestive tract of a juvenile green turtle, washed up dead near Blackpool in 2001, was completely blocked by marine litter including a large fragment of blue latex balloon
  • Animals get tangled up in balloon ribbons and string, restricting their movement and the ability to eat
  • Sky lanterns also pose a fire hazard to crops and to thatched roof properties
  • The largest ever balloon release was over 1.4 million balloons. Just imagine how many millions of balloon bits would have fallen back to earth doing untold damage.

What you can do

Balloon on Sand Bay beach Natasha Ewins

Credit: Natasha Ewins

We want to get outdoor balloon and sky lantern releases stopped. We don’t want to stop people having fun – we just want to protect our vulnerable marine species and reduce litter.

We need your help in spreading the word – letting go of balloons and lanterns is harming our wildlife and littering our beaches.

If you're looking for alternatives to balloon releases, take a look at our suggestions below:

Councils are getting it

More and more local authorities are voting to ban the release of balloons and lanterns on their land. They’re making that decision after pressure from local people.

Over 80 local authorities in the UK have banned balloon/sky lantern releases on their land. Check our list of Councils with bans to see if yours is on there.

For more information

If you're looking for more detailed information about sky lantern and balloon releases then please read our Pollution Policy and Position Statement linked below to find out more.