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Balloon and sky lantern releases

All balloon and lantern releases on council owned land and property; and at events supported by the council, including those on non-council land, are prohibited.

The release of helium filled balloons and Chinese / sky lanterns has increased in recent years. These balloons and lanterns pose hazards to wildlife and livestock and can cause injury and death. Lanterns can also cause injury to humans, damage to buildings and cause callouts to the fire service.

Under Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (“the EPA”) it is an offence to throw down, drop or otherwise deposit, and then leave, litter in an area which is open to the air and to which the public has access. Local authorities have a statutory duty to enforce the EPA with fixed penalty notices and have a responsibility to keep public open spaces free from litter.

This policy sets out the main hazards posed by these releases. Within this policy the term “release” refers to the intentional act of releasing a lantern or the release of balloons into the general environment.

This policy covers all balloon and lantern releases on such South Lanarkshire Council owned property and at events supported, financially or otherwise, by South Lanarkshire Council including those not on council owned land. For events licensed by South Lanarkshire Council licensees will be required to comply fully with the EPA or such other legislation as may then apply.

Within this policy the term “balloon” refers to any inflatable flexible bag filled with gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen or hot air made from materials such as rubber, latex, natural latex, paper, polychloroprene, foil, mylar or a nylon fabric. This includes all biodegradable balloons.

The policy is designed to prohibit the deliberate release of helium balloons.

As sky lanterns include a naked flame there is an increased risk of damage resulting from their release and, consequently, the policy prohibits the release of even single lanterns.


Once a balloon has been released it can rise to a height of 5 miles where the pressure and the temperature cause the balloon to undergo brittle fracture. The balloon pieces then float back down but 5-10% do not burst, and float back down whole and partially deflated. Latex balloons are often cited to “degrade as fast as an oak leaf”, which is reported as 6 months. However they can cause significant harm to wildlife and livestock in these six months by entanglement and choking, and take considerably longer to degrade in the marine environment.
Balloons can also cause a choking hazard for livestock as the pieces of balloon, ribbon, string and plastic holder cups fall into grazing fields or fields of hay or straw which are subsequently made into silage.


“Chinese” or “Sky” lanterns are made of thin paper held by a wire or bamboo frame and lifted by heat from a naked flame. They pose similar choking threats to wildlife and livestock as balloons do.

Lanterns pose a fire hazard to dry standing crops, stacks of hay or straw, forestry and farm buildings, thatched cottages and other buildings.

Silly string

Although the use of silly string is not prohibited or cited within the policy it is discouraged on council owned land and property and at events supported by the council. The chemical composition of the string is complex but it is known to break down into small pieces of plastic which can enter ecosystems and have similar impacts to other mircoplastics. This means the string ultimately becomes litter which is not good for the environment.

Policy actions

All balloon and lantern releases on council owned land and property; and at events supported by the council, including those on non-council land, are prohibited.

South Lanarkshire Council will raise awareness of environmental consequences of balloon and Chinese/sky lantern releases.

It is the responsibility of all Services to comply with and implement this policy as appropriate to their Service.

It is hoped that publicising this policy will also lead to a reduction in smaller scale private releases, as the public become more aware of the dangers they pose.

The ban of the release of sky lanterns and mass release of helium balloons will be incorporated into appropriate license agreements, letting conditions and local park and building management rules.

It should be noted that this policy is intended to prohibit the deliberate release of sky lanterns and helium balloons such as the mass release of balloons at events. The council recognises that there may be instances where single helium balloons will be accidentally released into the environment such as may happen at children’s parties.