Image demonstrating Plea to avoid balloon releases 

Plea to avoid balloon releases 

Northumberland County Council is appealing to the public to consider other alternatives to balloon releases which are often used for events and memorials, but can have a devastating impact on local marine environment and wildlife. 
While balloon or lantern releases are often carried out with good intent, they also have a long and devastating impact on our environment. 

Once released, they very quickly drop back down to earth with their tattered ends and floating pieces being eaten by marine life, or other animals becoming tangled in the debris causing injury, illness and great suffering. 

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 have been known to present a fire risk.  

During these very difficult times, families have not  always been able to give their loved ones the usual funeral services, full of family and friends, that they had wished,  and so it is only natural that they wish to commemorate their passing in other ways. 

The council is encouraging people to think carefully about 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 when the current coronavirus restrictions are eased. 

Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, Cabinet member for community services said: 

While many people are aware of the environmental impacts of balloons, a few well-meaning people and organisations do still release themPeople 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. 

What we are asking is for people to seriously consider using alternatives which not only create a lasting memory but do so without detriment to the local environment or wildlife. 

During the current pandemic we all have to adhere to government regulations and gatherings are not permitted,  however alternatives to balloon releases when restrictions are eased could include 
  • Jam jar lights – personalise recycled jars into tea light holders and stage a vigil at dusk. Use LED lights, or fill a bigger jar with a string of fairy lights  
  • Plant a tree or flowers as lasting memorial 
  •  A memorial plaque – somewhere people can visit for years to come  
  • Organise a memory walk at a future date when restrictions are eased. Encourage everyone to wear the same colour or theme the event, raising money for good cause from sponsorship 
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