When you do a little research on balloon releases you are sure to come across balloon ‘educators’. These sites are administered by balloon enthusiasts, people that make money from the balloon business whether it is through the decorating businesses or the manufacturing industry itself. Balloon art is one option that does not litter the balloons (usually). Manufacturers say that to be environmentally friendly while performing a balloon release one must simply hand tie latex balloons with no attachments. Latex balloons (aka natural rubber or toy balloons) are the choice for ‘environmentally conscious’ balloon releasers according to the Balloon Council that states “Since latex is fully biodegradable, an inflated latex balloon decomposes at about the same rate as an oak leaf under similar conditions.”
An Oak leaf– now that sounds natural, right? Not quite. Oak leaves are very durable and can take four years or more to completely biodegrade. That’s plenty of time for an animal to come across and potentially ingest a “biodegradable” balloon. Besides, an oak leaf grows on a tree – a balloon is a man-made product with chemicals & plasticizers.
The Balloon Council, Balloon HQ, International Balloon Association and others are all trying to keep balloon release bans off of legislative agendas. They say that as long as balloon releases are done with hand tied latex balloons with no attachments they are no threat to wildlife. As mentioned above, latex balloons have plenty of time to come into contact with wildlife before they degrade. So why do they spend big bucks lobbying in opposition of balloon release bans? The almighty dollar, of course! Balloon releases do not use one or two balloons they usually use hundreds! And that means more money for the balloon industry. If there was a cap on how many you could release that would be stomping down their profit margin.
Balloon HQ says, “Millions of balloons are released each year in the US. The National Weather Service releases 50,000 five foot diameter balloons each year. Treb Heining has released over 1.4 million balloons at once.”
Here is a snippet of the IBA’s proud accomplishments:
“To date, only five states have enacted balloon release bans and out of those five only two specified 10 or more balloons, two specified 25 or more and one specified 50 or more. Since 1991 when The Balloon Council came into existence and was able to communicate with policy makers not a single state has enacted balloon release legislation.”
“June 2007- Good News! The New Hamphire Senate voted June 6, 2007, to kill HB 62 which proposed to ban balloon releases in the state of New Hampshire. The Balloon Council was once again instrumental in defeating this legislation.” This bill would have made it illegal for any balloon filled with lighter-than-air gas to be released (and the typo in this paragraph is the actual quote).
For more battles the IBA has won follow this link to their site:
Below is an insert describing work done by a group of K-2 grade students:
“In November 2005, the Inventioneers were in the middle of our ‘Kids For Clean Oceans’ project on marine debris. We learned a lot about the dangers balloons posed to ocean animals and we wanted to help. We started to brainstorm ways that we could do this. One of the ways we came up with was to propose a law to the state legislature that would prohibit the large-scale release of balloons in New Hampshire. We contacted state representative Kevin Waterhouse and asked him if he would sponsor a bill about our issue. Rep. Waterhouse took up the issue as the legislature opened this fall. We are happy to report that the balloon release bill is coming up in committee in January 2007!”
As long as these industries exist they will be fighting for the people’s “right” to litter. It is illegal to litter but not to inflate this litter and let it float away.
The laws that have been enacted in certain states and counties often go unnoticed anyway; to both the public releasing balloons and the officers that should be enforcing it.
The bottom line is, littering should be illegal whether one person tosses a can out their car window, a company dumps waste into a local water system, or a school releases ten latex balloons; it’s all putting human waste into the environment where we can no longer control where it goes. It is all litter pollution. So yes, every state should have a law that prevents litter from being released, whether it affects a business or not, no one or group should have the right to pollute the Earth we all live on (and when I say we I mean all living creatures). But the laws often side with corporations it seems; especially those that rake in millions of dollars a year. As with all environmental problems there is something we can do.
One action that can be taken is to write to your representatives and legislatures. It never hurts to let the people that are supposed to represent you in your government know how you feel. If you know of a balloon release that is being organized, is scheduled, or someone/some place that often performs them, write to them and let your voice be heard. If it’s a school, write to everyone from the teacher that suggested, through the principal, to the county superintendent, and up to the state education board. If it’s a business, write to the manager up to the CEO. Your voice will be heard and you’re more likely to get a response.
The laws may never reflect the need for environmental protection, but that doesn’t mean people cannot make those decisions for themselves. Whether it is against the law or not people that are aware of growing environmental problems like balloon releases are more likely to make better choices that respect the environment. One should not need a law to tell them not to pollute our Earth. We need to make people aware that releasing a balloon is nothing less than littering.
Spread the word, spread the love, and spread respect for the planet and all life.