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Plea To Stop Harmful Balloon And Lantern Releases

Northumberland County Council is appealing to the public to use other alternatives to balloon and lantern releases for events and memorials, which can have a devastating impact on wildlife and the environment.

While balloon or lantern releases can be carried out with good intent, they also have a long and devastating impact on the environment, and the council is strongly discouraging people from doing it. 

After they’re out of sight, they eventually fall back to earth – along with any string and plastic attachments.

Wildlife may eat parts of sky lanterns or deflated balloons when they come down on land or in the sea. 

Sharp parts can damage an animal’s digestive system, and balloons may block it and prevent them from feeding, strangle them or drown them.

Animals and birds may also get caught up in fallen wire frames or string and suffer injury and distress in struggling to get free or starve to death. 

Deflated balloons can also look like jellyfish. And because some sea turtles feed almost exclusively on jellyfish, balloons are easily mistaken for their regular meal. Once ingested, the ensuing damage can become fatal if not caught early – if it’s caught at all.

Although biodegradable options are available, these still take months or even years to break down and can still cause horrendous, painful deaths to animals.  Meanwhile, lanterns set off in warmer months can travel long distances and have been known to cause a fire risk.   

The council is encouraging people to use other less damaging ways to pay tribute to a loved one, such as planting a tree or flower bed, using jam jar lights, or organising a memorial walk for a chosen charity. 

Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, Cabinet member for local services, said: “While many are aware of the environmental impacts of balloons and lanterns, a few well-meaning people and organisations do still release them  – but as a council, we strongly discourage this. People assume the term biodegradable means harmless, but this is simply not the case. No balloon is environmentally friendly.   

“We do appreciate this is a sensitive and emotional issue as balloon releases are often organised to mark the death of a loved one. However, we also recognise the concerns of farmers, environmentalists, biologists and animal lovers, and their work to raise awareness of and tackle this problem.  

“It is council policy to decline any requests from individuals and organisations who contact us wanting to have organised balloon or lantern releases from our parks and open spaces. What we are asking is for people to use alternatives which not only create a lasting memory but do so without detriment to the local environment or wildlife.” 

Safer & environmentally friendly alternatives to balloon releases:

● Plant a tree 
As well as being extremely environmentally friendly, this can be a lasting memorial and a place to visit and look after for generations to come

● Hold a candle-lit vigil  
Candles are a beautiful way to commemorate a loved one. Have guests light a candle and sing or share stories or poems together.

● Create a Memorial Garden
Start a container garden or flower bed. Choose plants and flowers to honour a loved one.

● Organise A Memorial Walk 
If the person you love loved the outdoors, why not gather together and walk their favourite route?