The intentional release of Chinese or sky lanterns and gas filled balloons has been banned on Aberdeenshire Council land and property.
Their release by staff and at events endorsed or supported by the council, including those not on its land, is also prohibited. The council hopes it is setting a good example and helping to raise awareness of the issue – councillors heard they can seriously negatively affect the environment.
Members of the Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) heard the release of lanterns and balloons has increased in recent years, as have problems associated with them.
A report set out how they pose hazards to wildlife and livestock, causing injury and death, and can injure humans, damage buildings and lead to false call-outs for the coastguard. Councillors approved a policy put forward by countryside rangers introducing a ban on intentional releases, which also outlined potential hazards and examples of incidents.
Common Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin and Northern Fulmar, all present off the Aberdeenshire coast, have been found with latex balloons in their digestive system. Turtles and sharks have been found to be affected elsewhere.
A recent blaze at a recycling plant in the midlands and another at a caravan park in Worcestershire were both attributed to lanterns.
Parts of balloons and lanterns are regularly found on Aberdeenshire’s beaches during litter picks and have even turned up in the National Nature Reserve at Forvie.
Around twenty-four local authorities in the UK now have policies which ban their release and authorities throughout the world have done the same.
Keep Scotland Tidy, the National Farmers Union Scotland, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the RSPB and the Marine Conservation Society all support and call for bans.
Head of planning Robert Gray said the move to ban intentional release was timely, given a recent fire on RSPB land at Fraserburgh which damaged 60 acres of wild land.
ISC chairman, Peter Argyle, said after the meeting
This seems to me a very sensible way forward in terms of the evidence that’s in the report.
While we cannot govern the release of these lanterns in every situation and location, we can hopefully lead by example and help to highlight the problems they can cause.
ISC vice chair Alan S. Buchan added
There appear to be numerous instances where the remains of lanterns and balloons have been found following autopsies of sea animals and there have been instances where livestock and people have been put in danger.
We still want people to have fun, but we want them to do it in a different way and make them aware of the potential hazards caused by lanterns and balloons.
You can read the report presented to the committee below