Saturday

16th Feb 2019

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Brussels deflating children's balloons

  • Manufacturers, retailers and trade associations are calling on the EU to 'educate, not legislate' when it comes to plastics waste from balloons

The European Balloon and Party Council (EBPC – the largest industry association for balloon and party products in Europe) is claiming that officials in Brussels are deflating children's balloons without justification.

Balloons and balloon sticks have been included in the suggested 'Top 10' marine litter list in the proposed Single Use Plastics Directive.

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What the 'powers that be' haven't told you is that the items in the top 10 list are a result of an aggregation process of selective data - after a significant number of items have been removed.

For example, balloons and balloon sticks only appear in European Environment Agency data, in which they rank at number 36.

The amount of litter that represents balloons in the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) - the most comprehensive dataset - equates to approximately five kilogrammes over the whole of Europe in any one year. That is the equivalent of less than 0.000002 percent of balloons manufactured.

OSPAR's data shows that balloons do not rank in the top 10.

In fact, the European Commission has selected a single year and a single data set from that year to include balloons.

This selective data mining to include high visibility products is both unfair and unproductive, and will result in a highly negative impact in public perception – an impact that the industry is already feeling against any tangible environmental gain.

In addition, balloons and balloon sticks are the only products in the suggested marine litter list that have not had an impact assessment.

The inclusion of balloons and sticks against the environmental benefit is very disproportionate and goes against the commission's own principles of proportionality.

If balloons and balloon sticks were to be wrongly caught up in new regulations, it would be devastating for the industry. As a major driver of the small-and-medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, our industry directly employs up to an estimated 21,000 people across Europe in manufacturing alone.

To be clear, EBPC does not condone balloon releases and we have been very public about our position through our recent statements.

We welcome all efforts to clean up the environment but to take away childhood memories of a much-loved product without any impact assessment is unjustified.

In addition to this, any balloon stick must meet the strict requirements of the Toy Safety Directive (2009/48/EC) and the harmonised European Toy Safety Standards (EN 71), both of which place such specific safety demands on the manufacturing process that an alternative to plastic has yet to be found.

We would welcome any suggestions from MEPs and commissioners to develop a 100-percent environmentally-friendly option that can adhere to such stringent regulations.

On a more positive note, we have been working hard in Brussels to get our viewpoints across.

We received welcome support from key respected and influential MEPs, including Karl-Heinz Florenz from Germany.

Florenz specifically stated he "would not support inclusion of balloons", claiming he would not want to explain the labelling to his grandchildren.

Instead, he agreed that the focus should be on positive education.

The EBPC supports any reduction of plastics in the environment; in addition we have embarked on our own mission to include a label for 'Don't Let Go' after close discussions with the Marine Conservation Society in the UK.

We are also launching our newly-designed best practice program on how to handle balloons safely.

EBPC director general, Suteesh Chumber, commented: "We would rather educate consumers and children through key positive messaging. Our program will be much more effective than those measures proposed by the European Commission, with the potential to reach a global audience rather than just a European one."

"We call on the European commission and members of parliament to consider our key messages carefully and reduce unnecessary regulations which will, in turn, lead to job losses and deprive millions of Europeans of joy and celebration without tangible environmental gain. We cannot educate if Europe legislates."

The European Balloon and Party Council is a leading voice representing all the key players in the balloon & party industry, including manufacturers, distributors and trade associations

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver

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