Cork County Council To Consider A Ban On Balloon Releases On Council Managed Land

By Seamus Whelehan

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Cork County council’s Environmental special purposes committee are to consider banning balloon releases, because they can entangle and choke, wildlife and domestic animals to death.
The ban on balloons was proposed by Councillor Marcia Dalton and backed by Sinn Fein Councillor Danielle Twomey at Monday’s Southern Committee meeting in County Hall.
The Independent Cllr said while balloon releases are “beautiful,” “emotional” and “symbolic.”
“The reality is a few minutes after the magnificent visual impact is over, the balloons don’t disappear.”
It’s estimated that up to 90% of balloons rise to five miles into the atmosphere where they shatter into tiny fragments. However the remaining 10% descend back down, touching down on land or sea.
The Ballynamona Clean coast environmental group assert that when balloons are ingested by animals, they often block food from entering their stomach, causing the animal to starve to death.
They say they regularly find semi-inflated balloons on their litter picks along East Cork’s beaches.
In the UK a study carried out by the Marine conservation society found 3 balloons per kilometre of coast line.
Ted O’Leary, Senior Executive Officer of the authority’s Environmental Directorate told the Southern committee he was in favour of a total ban but the current litter legislation needs to be reformed.
He said “the direct fly-tipping of such material is an offence under current litter and waste legislation, while the release of such material into the air is not.”
Balloons found here are generally made of either Mylar of Latex.
Mylar is a plastic that does not biodegrade while latex in its natural state is biodegradable.
Balloons that come down on land take 6 months to biodegrade, but those in salt water take up to 12 months.
Although latex is biodegradable it goes through a sticky stage which increases the choking risk if a balloon is ingested.
“It’s tragic that because of a lack of awareness, something that is beautiful, poignant and celebratory should cause so much downstream destruction, suffering and death” commented Cllr Dalton, an environmental engineer.
Balloon releases have already been banned in several US states including Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, California and Virginia. They have been banned in Australia as well as 34 local authorities in England, 10 in Scotland, 14 in Wales and 4 in Northern Ireland.
In 2005 the then Minister for the Environment Dick Roche rejected a similar request to ban mass balloon releases.
He said the small percentage that land, did not matter as the vast majority of them were destroyed.

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