THE release of balloons at charitable events may soon be prohibited in county Cork following moves to introduce a ban to protect the environment and wildlife.
Cork County Council's environment and emergency services strategic policy committee will consider the proposal to ban balloons, which would make it the first local authority in the country to do so.
Recent research in the UK suggests that up to 80% of latex balloons return to the earth’s surface rather than breaking up into fragments in the atmosphere.
The UK based Marine Conservation Society reported a 53% increase balloon related litter on beaches last year and said the material was known to choke wildlife.
County councillor Marcia D’Alton has asked the authority to consider banning the release of such items due to the risk they pose to wild animals, birds and the marine environment.
Ms D’Alton said the ceremonies involving balloon releases were often “beautiful, emotional and celebratory” but once the visual display was over, the balloons would go off into the atmosphere and cause issue for animals and wildlife that may ingest fragments of the balloons which could cause a “slow and miserable death”.
Ted O’Leary, senior executive officer of the environment directorate at Cork County Council said the authority was not aware of any other authority in Ireland which had imposed such a ban but acknowledged they had been introduced in some jurisdictions in the UK.
“A number of environmental groups have in recent years called for a ban on balloon releases on the basis of their impact on animal health, the marine environment and their general contribution to littering,” he said.
“The directorate would be generally supportive of a policy that discourages such releases and acknowledges the anomaly whereby 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.
“We acknowledge of course that many of the events involving balloon releases are organised in support of very worthy causes - most likely with little awareness among organisers of the potential environmental impacts. The promotions of awareness among community and charitable groups may also be an area that we could look at," he added.