Advice on sky lanterns and helium balloons

Sky lanternArgyll and Bute Council has joined other local authorities and organisations such as the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in its concerns about the release of 'Sky' or 'Chinese' lanterns and helium-filled balloons.

Argyll and Bute Council Policy on the ban of sky lanterns and balloon releases on council-owned land and property

The Council has approved a recommendation to ban the release of helium filled balloons and Chinese style lanterns from council land and property. The policy covers releases on Argyll and Bute Council owned or leased property and land, and at any Council endorsed or supported events, including those not on council owned-land.

The release of helium balloons and sky lanterns has increased in recent years.  These balloons and lanterns pose hazards to wildlife and livestock causing injury and death.  Lanterns can also cause injury to humans, damage to buildings, woodland, agricultural land and result in callouts to the Fire and Rescue Services.

In Scotland, the NFUS has reported finding lantern remains on farmland and there is a fear that these can cause similar choking hazards to farm animals and wildlife.

Chinese (or ‘Sky’) lanterns consist of a paper-covered wire or bamboo frame and an open flame heat source, which lifts the lantern into the air where it can float for miles from the point of release. Once extinguished the lantern falls back to earth.

Chinese lanterns can be dangerous to animals;

Lanterns pose a threat to animals, as they can cause injury, suffering, and death, through:

  • Ingestion
  • Entanglement
  • Entrapment

When eaten the sharp parts of a Chinese Lantern can tear and puncture an animal’s throat or stomach, causing internal bleeding.

Animals can become tangled in fallen lantern frames and suffer from injury and stress struggling to get free, or starve to death. Marine life is also endangered by lanterns falling into the sea.

Fire Risk

Sky lanterns can cause fires, which destroy habitats and set animal housing, feed and bedding alight. Fire services have issued warnings to people about this following incidents such as the Smethwick recycling plant fire.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘biodegradable’ lanterns are safe either. Bamboo can take decades to degrade and there is still a fire risk.

Alternatives

Many balloon and lantern release events are planned for fundraising and celebrations. Argyll and Bute Council can support alternatives whilst enforcing the ban. The Marine Conservation Society has provided alternatives:

  • Flags, banners and pop-ups - When budgets are tight many businesses are realising the benefits of using reusable eye-catching signage. Colourful streamers, flags, banners and other signs save money and time over balloons, string, helium and lanterns.
  • Balloon sculpture - Turn balloons into something stunning with a hired-in balloon artist or try your own.
  • Virtual balloons and races - The RSPB have launched a new virtual balloon race where you can design and personalise your balloon and then track it on Google maps.
  • Pop a balloon - Put a raffle ticket in a few balloons before blowing them up. Let them go indoors and ask people to pop them. The raffle ticket indicates the prize.
  • How many? - Fill a car with blown up balloons and get people to guess how many there are. The closest guess wins a prize.

Whilst the Council ban relates solely to Council properties and land, we encourage the public to act responsibility and consider the risks posed through the release of helium balloons and sky lanterns, particularly to livestock and the environment.

Should you require any further information please contact us on envhealth@argyll-bute.gov.uk

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