Party celebrants could soon be faced with a fine if they launch balloons into the air in Co Cork, writes Sean O’Riordan of the Irish Examiner.
Cork County Council’s Environment Directorate has backed a request from a councillor to draw up bylaws to prevent the release of balloons because when they burst and fall back to earth they present a potentially deadly threat to wildlife.
Independent councillor Marcia D’Alton, who proposed the bylaws, denied being a party-pooper, saying there were good reasons for imposing a ban.
She said that up to 95% of released balloons rise to an altitude of 8km where the pressure and temperature cause them to burst into small fragments. The remainder do not make it that high and can float many miles before descending back to the land or sea, semi-inflated.
“Balloons can be made of either mylar or latex,” said Ms D’Alton. “Mylar is a plastic and simply doesn’t biodegrade. Latex in the natural state is biodegradable but balloons on land can take six months to biodegrade and 12 months at sea.
“On land balloon fragments can harm wildlife, domestic animals and livestock.
“In the sea turtles, birds and other surface-feeding animals can mistake floating balloons for jellyfish and may eat them. Balloons can directly cause a slow and miserable death by blocking the digestive tract, eventually leading to starvation.”
Ms D’Alton, who is an environmental engineer, won the backing of her colleagues for the bylaws at a meeting of the county council’s Southern Division.
This story first appeared in today's Irish Examiner.