Helium balloons are part of party traditions in the UK, found at kids’ celebrations, weddings, anniversaries and even theme parks – but here’s the bad news: they wreak havoc on the environment when we let them go in the air.
They’re made out of latex – a material that can take years to biodegrade – and are also tied with plastic ribbons. In the USA, a survey of coastal cleanups in 2004 found 63,000 balloons were collected on beaches worldwide – this isn’t a result of children accidentally letting go of balloons, but of people releasing dozens of them at a time to mark special occasions.
Because of this impact, Lancashire County Council has proposed banning them on county council-owned land altogether. Green Party councillor Gina Dowding, who’s heading up a cross party task force to reduce the council’s plastic waste, wants people to stop releasing balloons in the air.
“Part of the intention of my motion is about us becoming an example and setting a leadership role [on environmental issues],” Dowding, who has been contacted by local residents concerned about balloon drops on local beachfront promenades, told HuffPost UK.
“If there was another example of people dumping large amounts of plastic there would be outrage, but because it’s in the air it’s out of sight, out of mind,” Dowding added. “More and more people, especially in rural Lancashire, are seeing these in fields.”
Dowding has been speaking to legal advisors to work out the best way to implement a ban and hopes the council will adopt the proposal once she’s ironed it out.
If the council does introduce a ban, it’s likely to be hard to enforce as mass balloon releases tend to be sporadic. But it’s not impossible, as Lancashire County Council is not the only one trying to take action – the Marine Conservation Society, which has a campaign calling on councils to ban balloons, claims more than 50 councils have already pledged to ban them.