BALLOON and lantern releases have a devastating impact on wildlife and the environment.

Northumberland County Council is now appealing to the public to use alternatives for events and memorials.

After falling back to earth, balloons can be eaten by marine life and animals get tangled in the debris.

Biodegradable options can take years to decompose and still cause painful deaths to animals.  

Lanterns set off in warmer months have caused fire risks.

Tributes can be paid in other ways, including planting a tree, using jam jar lights, or organising a memorial walk for charity, according to the authority.

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Northumberland County Councillor John Riddle, cabinet member for local services, said: “While many are aware of the environmental impacts of balloons and lanterns, a few well-meaning people and organisations do still release them  - but as a council we strongly discourage this.

“People assume the term biodegradable means harmless but this is simply not the case. No balloon is environmentally friendly.

“We do appreciate this is a sensitive and emotional issue as balloon releases are often organised to mark the death of a loved one. However we also recognise the concerns of farmers, environmentalists, biologists and animal lovers, and their work to raise awareness of and tackle this problem.

“It is council policy to decline any requests from individuals and organisations who contact us wanting to have organised balloon or lantern releases from our parks and open spaces.

“What we are asking is for people to use alternatives which not only create a lasting memory but do so without detriment to the local environment or wildlife.”