We were informed that, to promote their excellent service, the Blood Transfusion Service organised an event at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral at which balloons were released. Bearing in mind the potential danger to wildlife trying to ingest this litter, we contacted them and are pleased to have received this very positive reply, which we hope will encourage other charities to have in mind the same concern :
Thank you for contacting us with your concerns, regarding our balloon launches at Liverpool Cathedral.
It was of paramount importance to us that the balloons that we released did not harm the environment and we therefore searched for a company who supplied biodegradable balloons.
All of the balloons that we used are designed to burst at a certain height before falling to the ground as tiny pellets, which biodegrade within moments.
We also liaised with Liverpool Cathedral to use their site for our balloon launch and they were also happy that the balloons would biodegrade and not cause damage to the environment.
I am very grateful for your feedback and I can assure you that we did have the local environment in mind when this promotion was devised.
I am once again very sorry for the worry we have caused you and I hope that you will accept my sincere apologies.
Carl McBeth and Andrew Pearce Service Quality
QCA decided to look more deeply into this matter and Viktoria Nealis, our committee member wrote the following to animal welfare organisations:
“One of our current concerns is the increasing number of balloons used at many and varied celebrations, from private parties to animal welfare campaigning, and it is about the latter that I am writing in this instance.
We wonder if you would consider advising your donors and campaigners not to decorate their stalls with any balloons at all, not to give them away to children or organise balloon releases, because of the serious risk to wildlife, particularly sea birds and animals.
On the last Springwatch programme, there was an item on leatherback turtles arriving every year off the coast of Wales looking for jellyfish. Kate Humble warned people against setting any balloons free, because they had been found in many dead turtles’ stomachs.
Especially dangerous are balloons with strings, as birds get entangled in them. Farm animals and goats also eat them.
There is a petition on the Marine Conservation Society (www.mcsuk.org) asking for legislation against balloons.”
Replies to date are to the effect that:
Cats Protection said they would notify volunteers and members via their newsletter.
Uncaged/PAD asked Vickie to write something for their newsletter, which she did.
The SOFA Club in Norfolk will notify everyone possible.
Hillside Sanctuary will put a warning in the October issue of their newsletter.
The RSPCA, Animal Aid and The Shellfish Network are all unhappy about the use of balloons.
“Thank you for your email, the issue of balloons and their impact is one that we are aware of, and have highlighted (in bright red lettering) on the World Animal Day website – please see excerpt from the Resources page of World Animal Day website below.
PLEASE (DON’T) RELEASE ME!
THREAT TO WILDLIFE – 90% of helium filled balloons burst into tiny pieces after reaching high altitudes. Balloons, as with all plastic litter, pose a serious threat to wildlife. If swallowed, they can damage or block the gut and lead to starvation. Birds can become entangled in the string used to tie balloons and other plastic parts, such as a valve, can become ingested by a wide range of species.
THREAT TO CHILDREN – Children can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision is required when children are helping to inflate balloons. Keep uninflated balloons away from children and dispose of broken balloons promptly and safely.”
Dawn Lewis Editor (The Compassionate Shopping Guide)
“Thank you for contacting us about the release of balloons. The mass release of balloons as a publicity stunt is to be condemned.
Balloons may be made of latex (a renewable resource), of plastic (from a finite resource) and to throw them away en masse is wasteful and creates a litter problem.
Balloons may travel miles before ending up in hedgerows, trees, riverbanks, rivers, beaches and the sea. Here they not only create visible pollution but may also harm wildlife.
Discarded balloons may choke or strangle mammals or birds and, if completely swallowed, block the stomach so that the animal starves to death. This appears to be a real threat to marine mammals and turtles since discarded balloons often end up in the ocean. Both whales and turtles have been found dead with remains of balloons inside them.
WWF-UK is not against balloons as such, but is against balloon releases. They create a completely unnecessary litter problem which is unsightly, polluting and often environmentally dangerous.”
Supporter Care Executive.
However, QCA would like to point out that few organisations appear to share our concern about promotional balloons on stalls often handed out to children. Asking them not to let them go is all very well, but we have all seen that this inevitably happens.
Naturewatch promotes balloons with their World Animal Day logo on them.