Banning sky lantern, foil and plastic balloon releases – why it makes sense!

It might surprise you to hear a balloon professional and their industry association calling for a ban on the release of foil and plastic balloons, any other balloons with non biodegradable ribbons or attachments and sky lanterns. But before I explain why it isn’t as crazy as it seems, let me first explain the properties of sky lanterns and the different types of balloons available.

Type of balloon What is it made of? Does it degrade? Does it conduct electricity / pose a fire risk?
Foil A nylon base layer covered with a thin layer of aluminium No Yes
Plastic / bubble Clear, stretchy plastic No No
Latex Sap which is harvested from living rubber trees Yes No
Sky lantern Paper and wire No Yes

Sky lanterns are not comparable to balloons, but are often grouped into discussions around balloon releases. These lanterns comprise of a flame inside a paper and wire structure which is released into the sky, and there have been many well documented cases of sky lanterns descending and creating fires which have resulted in massive damage and disruption to both property, livelihoods and life.

NABAS (The National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers) have had a code of conduct relating to balloon releases in place for many years. This states that;

  • Only hand tied latex balloons inflated with helium to a maximum of 12” should be released
  • There should be no non-biodegradable attachments
  • Foil and plastic balloons should never be released
  • Balloons should never be tied together for release

This code ensures that only bio-degradable products are permitted for release as, when done so correctly, they rise to c. 5 miles where they shatter into tiny pieces and return to earth with a minimal environmental impact.

There is also a law called ‘California Law’, which has been adopted by balloon professionals globally which is very similar to the NABAS code of conduct.

Within the balloon industry, there is now a huge movement against offering latex balloon releases which follow the code of conduct, as the industry takes very seriously the effect that releases can have on the environment . But whilst we as professionals are turning down releases, there is nothing in place to stop members of the public buying any balloons they like from the High Street or using disposable canisters, and releasing their balloons themselves.

I was involved with a local beach clean in Norfolk a few weeks ago and we found evidence of one balloon. The balloon itself had gone and the memorial card, supplied by the funeral director, was wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. This goes against both the NABAS Code of Conduct and California Law, and the balloons that appear in the images of sea creatures wrapped in ribbon or choked by foil balloons also fail to comply with these guidelines. So what can we do?

We believe that a much stronger message is required, with a full ban on the release of sky lanterns, foil and plastic balloons, and any balloons with non-biodegradable attachments. In my opinion, the huge shift amongst professionals to refusing to offer releases suggests that it is only a matter of time before large scale latex releases become a thing of the past. Yet this won’t stop the photos of damage, litter and animal harm as these are usually caused by members of the public who haven’t been informed of the correct facts.

Will you help us and sign the petition?

We are most definitely living in a more environmentally aware society, and there are many other beautiful ideas for memorial gestures including;

  • Planting a tree
  • Placing a bench in a public place (with permission)
  • Scattering wild flower seeds
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Floating fresh flowers down a stream
  • Releasing doves using a professional release service

If you believe a ban would help reduce the amount of balloon related litter, then PLEASE sign the petition below, and don’t forget to share it with friends and family too!

If you’ve found this interesting, why not have a look at my blog on using balloons for maximum impact at your party?

Claire Carney is an independent florist, a Certified Balloon Artist and NABAS Approved Balloon Décor Instructor based near Norwich, Norfolk, UK

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