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So you let a balloon go…
…where will it go from here?
You will probably watch the balloon until it floats out of sight. But many may not realize that what goes up must come down. And come down they do, as litter on our planet.
The balloon will continue to climb in elevation until the atmospheric pressure will cause most to pop and some to slowly deflate and float down to Earth; but all will then descend to Earth where some will fall on land while most will fall in the vast ocean. This is where the balloon is clearly considered litter. After landing, the balloon (with or without ribbons) become a ticking time bomb. The balloon can have devastating impacts on wildlife and the environment. Balloons take years to break down. This gives plenty of time for wildlife to encounter this seemingly harmless, killer.
Growing up on the East Coast of Florida we have been cleaning the beaches since we were very little and we have witnessed the effects of balloon releases on wildlife and the environment. Not only collecting a growing number of balloons every year off of the beach, on hiking trails, and in our neighborhood but also finding them wrapped around a dead pelican’s beak, starving it to death, entangling a baby sea turtle, killing it before it even reached the water and a threat to any predator that dare tries to make use of the body. Most balloons pop, fall, and end up in the ocean like most trash that is not disposed of properly. Many will fall on land. Once the balloon lands this is where the balloons pose more of a threat to wildlife than some of the other kinds of litter. The balloons are mistaken for colorful foliage or take the shape of a jelly—a food source for many creatures. (Check out the photo gallery to see for yourself.)
Every one of the seven sea turtle species are endangered, and jellies are sea turtles favorite food. This is why plastic bags and balloons are often swallowed by sea turtles. Fish, dolphins, and whales are also known to ingest these items. When swallowed, the litter can choke the animal or eventually get lodged in the digestive tract, both leading to death. The ribbon can also entangle any animal that comes in contact with it, slowly killing it. Millions of animals die every year from swallowing and getting entangled in balloons and other human debris.
We have found many different kinds of balloons over the years. We once found a bouquet of balloons, still enact and slightly inflated, with a logo on it for a festival in Nashville, Tennessee. The balloons had traveled over 800 miles away and washed up on a beach from the ocean. Just after Valentine’s Day we found thirteen balloons on a quarter mile strip of desolate beach, all were mylar valentine day themed balloons. You could just make out the X’s and O’s from the salt worn plastic. A few days later, on the very same strip of beach we found eighteen more Valentine’s Day balloons! Did people let them go on purpose? Would they be happy knowing that their balloon could potentially kill another life? We don’t think anyone with any compassion or value for life would. A celebratory item should not become a lethal weapon.
This website was created to inform people about the impacts balloons have on wildlife and the environment, the depletion of helium, why people release balloons, alternatives to balloon releases, laws concerning balloon releases, what balloon enthusiast will tell you, how to help spread the word, and also gives people a chance to share their own story, where they found a balloon and/or where it came from, and a photo gallery where people can view photos we have personally taken and submit their own.
Please explore the other pages to learn more about balloons as litter. Everyone can make a difference, every single day.