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Call to end sky lantern and balloon releases amid pollution and wildlife fears

PUBLISHED: 10:58 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:26 12 October 2019

Norfolk County Council wants people to pledge to stop helium balloon and sky lantern releases. Pic: AP Photo/Wally Santana

Norfolk County Council wants people to pledge to stop helium balloon and sky lantern releases. Pic: AP Photo/Wally Santana

People are being urged to ditch the mass releases of helium balloons and sky lanterns - because of the damage they cause to animals and the environment.

There are environmental concerns about the impact of the balloons and lanterns. Pic: Archant LibraryThere are environmental concerns about the impact of the balloons and lanterns. Pic: Archant Library

Norfolk County Council this weekend launches a new charter, urging people to go green when it comes to celebrating, by finding other ways to mark important occasions.

The environmental concerns around lanterns and balloon releases include the risk of wildlife getting trapped in the remains of balloons or lanterns or dying after eating latex.

They can also end up as litter in the countryside, on beaches and in the sea, or spread fires.

Among six fires caused by sky lanterns in the past five years was one where 200 square metres of marram grass in Waxham was set alight.

Independent Norfolk county councillor Sandra Squire. Picture: Sandra SquireIndependent Norfolk county councillor Sandra Squire. Picture: Sandra Squire

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Norfolk County Council banned release from their own land in 2015, but a motion tabled by independent councillor Sandra Squire last year has led to the charter - to get individuals and businesses to stop the releases.

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for environment and waste, said: "We would love people to banish the helium balloon and leave the sky lantern at home as these outdated ways of celebrating are harmful, particularly to animals.

"Please do encourage your organisation or business to sign the charter to pledge not only that there will ll be no sky lantern or helium balloon releases on their land, but also to promote new and sustainable ways to celebrate, such as using giant bubbles and flying kites or streamers."

The charter will be launched at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse at Saturday's apple day event, but over the coming months the council will be urging businesses, communities, landowners, schools and individuals to sign up to the charter.

Ms Squire, leader of the independent group, said: "I've been thrilled to be able to see this idea grow from my original motion to council right through to the launch.

"Balloons are one of the most damaging plastics in the environment and are responsible for many deaths of marine wildlife, while lanterns have been responsible for fires and injury to farms and farm animals.

I understand people hold them for celebration and memorials, however there are better alternatives available."

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