North West Wales

Conwy council's lantern, balloon ban bid to protect wildlife

Razorbill caught in balloon cord (pic by Christine McGuinness, MCS)
Image caption The MCS says up to 10 items of balloon debris are found per kilometre on beach

A council is expected to ban the release of balloons and Chinese lanterns at events on its land, saying they pose a danger to wildlife.

Conwy councillors have agreed to the action amid concern about the risks to animals and the environment.

A report says usage has increased over the years and some do not decompose.

The Welsh government is also looking at their effect, and the Marine Conservation Society and Keep Wales Tidy is calling for a ban.

Dr Sue Kinsey, the MCS pollution policy officer, said she was delighted by the proposals agreed by councillors on Thursday, which are expected to be ratified at a meeting of the council's cabinet committee on 11 September.

She said: "MCS has provided evidence in the form of our latest Beachwatch report which highlights the increase in balloon litter over the years - we now see an average of 9.5 items of balloon litter per kilometre on UK beaches.

"It impacts wildlife, pets and livestock through entanglement and ingestion."

A Welsh government spokesperson confirmed the environment minister has agreed to "establish an evidence base on the impact of the release of Chinese and air lanterns".

She said: "We will be commissioning independent research to help inform this evidence base."

Beach launch

Some local authorities in England have already taken action to stop the use of balloons and lanterns, including Plymouth, Oxfordshire and the Shetland Islands, said the report to Conwy's communities overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday evening.

It says the council, as one of the largest land owners in the county, with about 166 parks and 204 recreation areas, should take a responsible stance.

Image caption Ceredigion council grants permission to launch lanterns off its beaches if they are biodegradable

The report said requests for permission to hold balloon releases often come from groups as part of fund-raising stunts.

However, Keep Wales Tidy said "the problems begin when balloons fall back to the ground".

A spokesperson said: "Not only do they add to our litter problem, some animals also mistake them for food."

BBC Wales contacted other Welsh councils. Some, such as Caerphilly and Carmarthenshire said that while they did not have a policy on banning their use, they advised people on the environmental concerns.

Ceredigion council said it did grants permission to launch lanterns on beaches it managed on assurance they were non-wired and made of biodegradable material. The coastguard service also has to be informed in advance.

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