May years ago, I was a Girl Scout leader. We had just completed a wonderful father daughter dance and the girls were cleaning up. I had just brought some boxes of supplies to my car. When I turned back to the building, the girls were all outside enthusiastically counting down to release a fist full of balloons into the sky. I raced over and stopped the release just in time, much to the dismay of the girls, who thought I was a big curmudgeon. I explained to the girls the deadly impact balloons can have on our wildlife. While they were disappointed, I hope that it made at least some of them think and reconsider in the future.
We have all seen the litter in the parks, our waterways, on beaches; balloons with bright ribbons are everywhere. For some reason, people are enchanted by watching brightly colored balloons float up in the sky. But what goes up must come down. And when they do, it can be hazardous to the health of an innocent bird, fish, turtle or other animal.
Did you know?
- Balloons are the number one deadliest form of litter for seabirds.
- Sea turtles swallow balloons because of their similarity in appearance to jellyfish, a common food source. In fact, of all rubber items found inside deceased sea turtles, 78% were balloons or their fragments.
- Balloons and balloon pieces found on beaches have tripled in the past 10 years.
- Animals are usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to eat. Animals can also get entangled in the ribbon making it unable to move or eat.
No balloon, no matter what it is made of, is truly biodegradable. And Sky Lanterns are not any better. They can travel for miles and then drop to the ground as litter or even start a fire. Fortunately, many countries and states in the United States have banned sky lanterns and balloon releases.
There are many ways to celebrate other than balloons: blow bubbles, plant native trees and flowers, decorate with colored lights, or float native flowers in a stream.
We can all do our part to coexist with wildlife and to educate and encourage others to do the same. And we can have fun and celebrate at the same time!