The summer is a celebratory time when people gather for graduations, the Fourth of July, weddings, and to enjoy time at the beach. Balloons are often used during these special occasions as decorations and gifts, and are sometimes intentionally released into the air. Unfortunately, once they go up, they must also come down; balloons that are released into the air don’t just go away, they either get snagged on something such as tree branches or electrical wires, deflate and make their way back down, or rise until they pop and fall back to Earth where they can create a lot of problems. Many balloons that are not properly disposed of end up in the ocean and along shores, becoming marine debris. Balloons can be carried by currents and winds, having far reaching impacts. Once balloons enter the ocean, they can become yet another hazard for marine wildlife. Balloons can be mistaken for food, and if eaten and ingested, balloons and other marine debris can lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, starvation, and death. String or ribbon that is often found attached to balloons can cause entanglement. String can wrap around marine life causing injury, illness, and suffocation.
Summer time is synonymous with enjoying time spent at the beach and playing in the surf. No one likes to hang out on a beach full of trash. Balloon debris that ends up along shorelines contribute to dirty beaches which deter tourists and residents from visiting and enjoying them.
Luckily, balloons and other types of marine debris is completely preventable. There are many decoration alternatives to balloons, such as fabric bunting, lights, paper streamers, plants, and reusable ornaments, which add some flare to any celebration! If you do use balloons, keep them inside and make sure there is a weight attached to prevent accidental releases.
There are many different types and sources of marine debris, however all marine debris comes from people. Ultimately, through awareness and practicing the “4Rs” – reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse –we can all do our part in lessening and eliminating marine debris, including balloon debris.
Let’s get creative! How do you celebrate and decorate without balloons? Share your ideas with us below!