Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Call for ban on sky lanterns and balloon release in Wales

ign up to stop outdoor balloon and sky lantern releases in Wales
March 2012. The  Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Keep Wales Tidy (KWT) and Cardiff Council are supporting pupils from Eco-Schools who are calling on the National Assembly for Wales to ban balloon and sky lantern releases across Wales and eradicate the threat of choking and entanglement among marine wildlife and farm animals.

Danger to wildlife and farm animals
The three organisations, and the Welsh Eco-Schools network, want to raise awareness among the public of the dangers both balloons and sky lanterns (also known as Chinese lanterns) can cause in the environment. They are encouraging people to sign a petition on the National Assembly for Wales website to urge Assembly Members to make Wales the first UK country to stop releases on its soil.
Emma Snowden, MCS Litter Campaigns Officer, says there are many misconceptions about the effects of ‘letting go': "Recent marketing campaigns have suggested that it's possible to carry out an ‘eco-friendly' balloon release using biodegradable balloons. But although biodegradable balloons are generally made of latex - a natural material derived from rubber - research indicates that latex balloons may take up to four years to decompose. During this time it remains as litter and is therefore a threat to wildlife whether in a field, woodland or floating out at sea."
MCS says its Beachwatch Big Weekend surveys have revealed that balloon litter has tripled on Welsh beaches in the last decade but that many people don't consider balloons to be litter - because they are let go rather than dropped. However what goes up must eventually come down!
KWT has also examined the issues surrounding balloon litter. In April 2008 the charity began monitoring incidences of balloon litter as part of the annual Local Environmental Audit and Management System, (LEAMS) surveys in each of Wales' 22 local authorities. Balloon litter was recorded in each of the counties monitored between 2008/09 and in one county, balloon litter was seen on 17% of the streets surveyed.
Bryony Bromley, Keep Wales Tidy's Eco-Schools Officer, has been working with pupils from Eco-Schools across Cardiff on a ‘Super Eco-Committee' after the idea to change the law relating to balloon and lantern litter was raised by pupils who were horrified of the effects that were being seen in our environment.
"It's fantastic to see young people taking such an active role in affecting change, not just locally but on a national scale. This is what the Eco-Schools programme is all about, pupils taking responsibility for making a positive difference to our environment".
Cardiff Council is also backing the ban, however, Cllr Margaret Jones, Executive Member for Environment says they don't want to spoil anyone's fun: "Balloon and sky lantern releases have become very popular in Wales and the environmental toll of these activities cannot be ignored. It is vital to change the perception of these releases as ‘harmless.' Studies show the great harm that can be done by spent lanterns and balloons to animals, farmland and the environment in general. I'm delighted to see schoolchildren leading the way through the Eco-Schools programme on this issue and the Council will do everything it can to support this campaign."
Emma Snowden says the increase in releases of lanterns is a concern: "The lantern frame is dangerous to wildlife, posing a threat of entanglement and ingestion as well as contributing to rising litter levels. The farming and maritime sectors are increasingly concerned about the obvious fire risk and lanterns are also increasingly being mistaken for marine distress flares. There have also been injuries to people caused by burning from the candles."
Eco-schools in Wales who were behind the idea of petition on the Government website are also urging schools throughout the county to sign a pledge not to let go and to use alternative ideas to balloon and lantern releases.
You can sign up to the petition here

Schools and organisations can also publicly pledge to ‘Not let Go' by joining the campaign here

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