Releasing balloons and lanterns could soon be banned from county council buildings, as part of a drive to cut plastic and support the environment.

The county council has already stopped using plastic cutlery and single-use plastic cups in its buildings.

And now it has emerged they are looking to ban the release of helium balloons and lanterns from venues too.

Helium balloons often land in the sea, where they can be eaten by fish, seabirds and other animals.

Chinese lanterns can cause fires if they land on dry vegetation, and can be eaten by grazing animals.

The new policy could mean anyone hiring out a council venue – for a party, wedding or other celebration – would no longer be able to let balloons or Chinese-style lanterns float into the skies.

Executive member for community safety and waste management Cllr Terry Hone revealed the plan at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (July 16).

He says it will build on a package of measures undertaken by the county council to “set an example”.

Speaking during a council debate that declared a ‘climate emergency’, Cllr Hone told councillors: “We said we needed to set an example here at the offices of Hertfordshire County Council to demonstrate to others that we are doing the  right thing – albeit on a small basis, but certainly going in the right direction.

“So, hence the reason why you no longer have plastic cutlery in the canteen, and we use metal cutlery and wash them up.

“Hence the reason why you no longer have single-use cups and we do encourage that you bring along your cup for your coffee.”

Cllr Hone also referred to the 25 tonnes of waste food that had been collected from the council’s cafeteria areas and the introduction of crisp packet recycling in County Hall.

And he said: “There are many other things we are doing as well.

“The next thing is balloons and lanterns, whereby we are looking to ban balloons and lanterns on Herts County Council sites when people have celebrations for all sorts of things, because we find them environmentally unfriendly – as do the animals that end up chomping them in the field behind me.

“We are going to start to look to look towards a ban on those.”

During the debate – at a meeting of the full council – councillors unanimously declared a ‘climate emergency’ and committed to a programme of measures to improve sustainability in the county.

And the ‘Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy’ will now be developed and presented to the cabinet before the end of 2019.

Earlier this year a petition – signed by 265 people – called on the county council “to join the growing list of council that have banned balloon and sky lantern releases”.