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‘Biodegradeable’ plastic balloons are killing wildlife, campaigners warn

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Plastic advertising balloons that blow away to sea are killing seabirds, seals and other wildlife, campaigners have warned.

Despite being sold as “biodegradable”, the freebies handed out at local fetes and by big restaurant brands are often blown away miles to the coast.

“Dolphins, whales, turtles, seabirds and other animals have been killed by balloons,” a Marine Conservation Society spokesman told Sky News.

“Animals swallow the balloons which can block their gut, causing them to starve.

“They can also become entangled in the balloon’s string. Turtles feed on jellyfish and can mistake balloons for their prey, making them particularly at risk.”

Plastics are a major source of global marine pollution. Pics: Claire Wallerstein
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Plastics are a major source of global marine pollution. Pics: Claire Wallerstein

A dead seal with a balloon and ribbon hanging from its mouth was recently found on a Cornish beach by wildlife campaigner Claire Wallerstein.

She also found a gannet that died after becoming tangled in ribbon tied to a balloon near Felixstowe in Suffolk.

Ms Wallerstein told Sky News: “While usually marketed as ‘100% biodegradable latex’, all the evidence shows that balloons do not break down at all, or at least not for months or years, in the cold, oxygen-poor conditions of the sea.

“I have a ‘biodegradable’ balloon that’s been in an open jar of seawater in my garden for the past three years and it’s shown no sign of breaking down whatsoever.

“Sadly, balloons are being released more and more for memorial purposes, weddings, on cruise ships, for commercial launches.”

The mass-produced balloons are usually promotional freebies
Image:
The mass-produced balloons are usually promotional freebies

Logos on the balloons reveal some of them are from the continent. One found on an Isles of Scilly beach, having travelled 500 miles from Belgium, was emblazoned with the branding of a bank chain called Belfius.

Ms Wallerstein believes more needs to be done to inform the public about the dangers for both wildlife and livestock – and an explanation on “biodegradable” claims.

She added: “The legal loophole should be closed so that balloon releases are classified as littering.

“A growing number of local councils are already banning balloon releases from their own land – for example, Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council do not allow them.”

Ocean plastics have pervasive impacts it has on all aspects of ecosystems
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Campaigners say many ‘biodegradable’ balloons don’t begin to disintegrate for years

Plastics are a major source of global marine pollution. Even tiny pieces, broken down by the action of water and the sun, cause harm by entering the marine food chain.

Ocean plastic pollution is an alarming problem due to its steady growth and the pervasive impacts it has on all aspects of ecosystems.

:: Sky Ocean Rescue aims to help everyone make simple everyday changes to stop the world’s oceans drowning in plastic.

:: To find out more about the issues affecting our oceans and how to #PassOnPlastic visit skyoceanrescue.com.

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