Spring is finally here! And with Spring comes lots of parties, celebrations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, fairs, and more! Balloons are commonly used around the world to celebrate many of the occasions listed, however, when your balloon disappears into the sky, where does it end up going?!
What goes up must come down! Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment and our waterways. All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as litter. And when it rains, all litter and trash end up down the stormdrain- which in turn lead to our waterways.
Balloons kill countless animals, cause dangerous power outages, and affect our water quality. They can even travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.
Balloons return to the land and water where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, causing death. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.
Inflated balloons that make their way back to earth or water, pose a risk for wildlife due to the high chance of becoming ingested due to attractive color or their ribbons and tassels forming the perfect trap for animals to become entangled. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.
Balloons can travel far and often end up riding the world’s oceans or rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. A report found on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data shows 1000’s of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast each year. The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem. Nevertheless, the Ocean Trash Index provides a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place. It is for that reason that a handful of states including but not limited to California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Virginia have recently passed legislation restricting the release of balloons.
What Can I Do to Help?
There are many alternatives that will not pollute the Earth or harm animals. We can opt for reusable party & advertising décor – banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles. Sky Lanterns are NOT a good alternative. Sky lanterns are an uncontrollable fire hazard and have sparked massive wildfires and structure fires. Falsely marketed as biodegradable, the chemically treated paper, bamboo ring, metal wires, and fuel cell can last over a year- polluting the planet & risking harm to other lives. Animals have become entangled in them or have ingested the metal parts.
Protesting or stopping a balloon release is another option. Below are some tips on how to go about stopping a balloon release:
- Do your homework! Check to see if balloon releases are illegal in the area. Mylar/foil balloons have a “warning” on them saying they should not be released outdoors because of their conductivity.
- Contact the organizer. Private message or email may be better. Offer alternatives. Click here for form letters and ideas.
- Contact the venue/location.
- Contact city officials. City Manager, Mayor, Parks & Recreation/whoever has jurisdiction of the venue/location. If it’s a sky lantern release, also contact the fire department.
- Didn’t work? You can Email Info@BalloonsBlow.org or Report a Release.
Please choose sustainable products when celebrating and be mindful of the simple choices we can make to protect the planet we all share!
Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!