A couple of weekends ago during our Kayak Ice Capades, we glimpsed a colorful mess of something-or-other as we paddled past the breakwater at Larchmont Harbor. Closer inspection revealed…balloons! Lots and lots of them, their helium faded—but their bright, happy colors very much intact.
How festive! How charming! How…awful. We immediately went into kayaker-sanitation-worker mode. But we couldn’t get the heap to fit on our decks. Fine. We’d just use them for towing practice. (What a drag! Below: Jean at 1 kt. maybe.)
They’d been tied together with fishing line and released on the joyous occasion of a new baby, per the message printed on the cheetah-pattern mylar balloons: “WELCOME, WILD ONE!”
Great. (Welcome, cute cuddly human being #7,000,000,001). Not your fault—you can’t even read. But here’s why that message and your aunties’ way of celebrating your arrival are tragically ironic (as in, DAMN YOU, WILD ONE!). Below, a page from balloonsblow.org “a non-profit organization created to provide information & educate others of the dangerous effects balloon releases have on wildlife & the environment & to inspire & promote an eco-conscious lifestyle.” BTW, a great time was had by all back at HHYC…popping the balloons, and tossing them into the trash.
Balloons kill wildlife. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years. We’ve witnessed this increase firsthand, cleaning the beaches since we were little children in the early ’90s, we would rarely find them back then.
While some balloons burst, others just gradually deflate. But they all fall back down to earth where they can wreak havoc on wildlife on land, sea, and air. The proof is in the photo gallery.
Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to take in any more nutrients. It slowly starves to death. The animals can also become entangled in the balloon and its ribbon making the animal unable to move or eat. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for, even with human eyes.
Balloons can take years to break down, even the so-called “biodegradable” latex ones. This gives plenty of time for it to travel and encounter many animals that may mistake it for a tasty snack, or accidentally get entangled in it.
Some states and countries have enacted laws regarding the release of balloons. The Balloon Council, and other balloon industry entities, spend millions of dollars lobbying to keep balloon releases legal. This multi-billion dollar industry encourages consumers to litter with their product. Releasing balloon should be included in already existing litter laws, after all, it’s simply littering. Check out balloon laws to learn more and find out how to help.