Balloon ban proposed as part of plan to reduce plastic waste

Balloons are increasingly released for celebrations and commemorations
Balloons are increasingly released for celebrations and commemorations

Councils across Lancashire are being asked to consider a ban on the release of balloons and sky lanterns on their land.

The recommendation was one of a series made by a task group of county councillors investigating ways to reduce single-use plastics in the region.

READ MORE >>> Lancashire is recycling less than it did three years ago
Chair of the group, Green Party councillor Gina Dowding, said that it would be an easy rule for County Hall and the district authorities to implement - as it would not require a bylaw.

“If there were any other incidents where people were gathering and dumping a whole load of plastic in one place, there would be outrage about it,” she said.

“But because balloons goes up into the air, before they come down, we don’t see the immediate consequences. However, they are very significant.

“We don’t want to stop parties or commemorations, but we can’t allow [something which] causes so much damage.”

The suggestions in the report were welcomed by Lancashire County Council's internal scrutiny committee, although they are not official council policy. However, the authority has already adopted a number of other recommendations about what can be done to reduce its own reliance on single-use plastics.

Committee members heard that, in County Hall, plastic cups have been replaced with drinking glasses and soft drinks bottles have been shelved in favour of cans. But bottled water is a plastic problem proving more difficult to solve - the council’s in-house cafe sells around 5,500 units per year, although staff are being encouraged to bring their own refillable bottles.

Meanwhile, single-use food containers and cutlery have been traded in for less wasteful alternatives - with their higher cost being passed onto customers. And according to the task group, it is the environmental benefit of making sometimes difficult choices which needs to be communicated to other public bodies in the county like schools and social care facilities.

While the group was concerned primarily with reducing plastic use, it did also turn its attention to how plastic is recycled in the county.

Currently, only plastic bottles are collected for recycling by Lancashire’s district authorities, while tubs and trays have to be taken by individual householders to one of the county council’s waste centres. However, the task group report noted that the trend across the country was for a wider range of kerbside recycling.

Lancashire County Council’s own waste department said the authority could save an estimated £4m if it diverted the 50,000 tonnes of recyclable material which currently goes to landfill. The task group raised the possibility of the authority’s material recovery facility in Farington being adapted to capture “higher value” plastics and to diversify into processing the material for future use.

Committee member George Wilkins warned of a bleak future if action was not taken now and said there was a role for innovative small businesses in the county.

“We are a disgusting society and the way we are going on, we’ll leave nothing for our grandchildren except a very dirty environment. Let’s see this moved on - and if the big boys [can’t help with the practicalities], let’s encourage the small manufacturers who can work with us,” County Cllr Wilkins said.

Meanwhile, there was a torturous tale from one councillor about what can happen when people are not educated about how to dispose of plastic properly.

“Children in my household recently disposed of baby wipes in an inappropriate way - and I had to undertake some engineering work of a disgusting nature,” County Coun Steve Holgate told the meeting.

“People need to know [what to do with] these products which we use on a regular basis.”