Balloons found upon our beach.
When we first started cleaning the beaches over 15 years ago, my sister and I, along with our parents, rarely found balloons. As the years went on we would find a few more here and there. Now, both in our early 20s, we continue our weekly beach cleanups and every year we find more and more balloons. Of course there is much more plastic as well, but the disturbing thing about balloon pollution is that it is 'celebrating by littering.'
We collected over a thousand balloons in 2011 alone and this year's count is already over 200. The amount of debris that gets washed ashore on North American beaches is very alarming, but it is particularly troubling that people are purposely littering with balloons to celebrate special occasions, to honor loved ones who have passed away, or to just mindlessly watch balloons float away.
This is the reason we have created BalloonsBlow.org, a website dedicated to educating people about the danger and destruction that releasing balloons can cause. There are countless websites and Facebook pages promoting balloon releases. The balloon sellers try to convince people that latex balloons are 'environmentally-friendly' and that they are biodegradable and harmless, but there is ample evidence that is not true. There are laws concerning balloon releases in several states in the U.S. and many countries around the world, yet many unknowing celebrators, grieving groups, and others, are arranging balloon releases worldwide.
Loggerhead hatchling entangled in 'biodegradable' latex balloons.
Too often parents who have lost children or miscarried precious babies turn to releasing balloons to 'let go' or remember the special life lost. There are actually many companies that profit on the grieving of these families (BalloonRelease.com, for instance). It is difficult for many to realize the impact this is having on life around us as more balloons are released each year. Today, more awareness and memorial groups are turning to the now popular balloon release to bring attention to a particular person or a cause. Unfortunately, the reality is that a balloon released to remember one life lost poses the risk of killing more lives in the process.
We hope that when people realize this they can let go of this destructive outlet and choose an environmentally-friendly alternative. Planting a tree and flowers is our favorite alternative because this creates life that lives on and gives back to the earth, while remembering a loved one. The trees and flowers we plant bring us strength and allow us to remember our loved ones through a growing, living source that benefits the world around us.
Honoring a loved one or celebrating by littering (litter that can entangle and kill) deserves to be banned altogether, but until that time, let's take on our own roles as conscious, responsible individuals living gently on this earth with creative, live-giving celebrations instead of those that harm. We are striving to get the word out: Balloons Blow - Don't Let Them Go! Please help us in this endeavor.
Find us at BalloonsBlow.org and on Facebook at Balloons Blow. Images of balloons impact on wildlife found here. States that currently have balloon release laws.
Razerbill killed by a balloon. Photo by Christina McGuinness.