Organized balloon releases happen for a number of occasions. We let balloons go to commemorate major events, fundraisers, grand openings, and sometimes mourn those we’ve lost. And in a lot of ways, it makes sense that letting balloons go would be comforting. We watch them rise into the sky and eventually out of sight, hoping they land in a better place.
Sadly, where they land is almost always never a better place. What goes up eventually comes down, and these balloons, even biodegradable balloons, can have a profoundly awful impact on the natural environment.
Balloons Blow, which is an awesome Facebook community that’s existed since 2012, has been working tirelessly to raise awareness about the dangers of releasing balloons.
“All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as “biodegradable latex, return to Earth as ugly litter,” they write on their website. “They kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages. Balloons are also a waste of Helium, a finite resource. Balloons can travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.”
And they’re not just here to preach. They take action in their day to day lives, cleaning trash and, you guessed it, wayward balloons off the beaches near where they live.
For many people, including myself for the longest time, I’d never even considered that balloon releases were a form of littering. It goes to show the power of “out of sight, out of mind.” But these wayward balloons cause some real trouble for wildlife, and even the ones that biodegrade can still take weeks or months to fully break down, wreaking havoc in the meantime.
Balloons Blow offer up some quick facts on their website.
- “Balloons can travel thousands of miles, polluting the most remote & pristine places”
- “Birds, whales, sea turtles, bighorn sheep, & other animals have been killed by balloons”
- “When an animal swallows a balloon, it can block its intestinal tract, leading to starvation”
- “Ribbons & string that are sometimes attached to balloons can cause entanglement & death”
But they also offer up a few alternatives.
“We can opt for reusable banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles.”