U.S. environmentalists warn: Balloons provide no joy for wildlife

Balloons washing up on the beach is a ‘huge problem,’ advocates say

Environmental advocates are raising awareness about the dangers of balloons for wildlife in the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

Volunteers for the Alliance for the Great Lakes picked up more than 18,000 balloons, balloon pieces or balloon strings along Great Lakes shorelines from 2016 to 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported.

READ MORE: Environmental group sounds alarm after 48 lbs of plastic found in dead whale

Lara O’Brien, who studies at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, said that an Australian study published in March found balloons are the highest-risk plastic debris for seabirds.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come together, gather and celebrate graduations, weddings, other celebrations, and they release balloons — and don’t really consider the consequences when the balloons come down,” she said.

During an annual cleanup program, the Alliance for the Great Lakes found between 4,400 and 7,200 balloons or pieces of balloon debris on Great Lakes beaches each of the last three years. The variation in the numbers can most likely be attributed to the number of volunteers on a particular beach in a certain year, not less balloon waste, said group spokeswoman Jennifer Caddick.

“It’s really dramatic and troubling,” Caddick said. “It paints a picture of the bigger plastic pollution problem plaguing the Great Lakes, our oceans, and really the entire planet.”

Pamela Denmon, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Virginia, said balloons washed-up on the beach is a “huge problem.”

“We would do a necropsy on a bird or turtle or other marine mammal and it would have entangled balloon ribbon all throughout its guts,” Denmon said. She added that she encountered dead seabirds, hanging from power lines or choked around the neck by balloon strings.

Five states have passed legislation to limit or ban intentional releases: California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. At least eight other state legislatures are considering such laws: Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Maine.

The Balloon Council, a New Jersey-based organization of balloon retailers, distributors and manufacturers, has spent more than $1 million nationwide lobbying to change or stop proposed laws to restrict balloons.

“We’ve never supported or sponsored any balloon releases,” council executive director Lorna O’Hara said. “We want people to continue to be able to use balloons, enjoy them, and then dispose of them properly.”

O’Hara said her group doesn’t oppose balloon release bans, but prefers educational programs that encourage putting all helium-filled balloons on weights and using biodegradable strings, or no attachments at all.

Christina Trapani, beach cleanup volunteer in Virginia, said she’s encouraged that the word is getting out on balloon litter, and behaviours are changing.

“The bottom line is, when you let go of a balloon, you’re littering,” she said. “You wouldn’t dump a bunch of uninflated balloons on the ground.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Zoning changes on deck at city hall are ready for review

‘Let’s Talk Zoning’ session for the public is Tuesday, February 11, at Evergreen Hall

Chilliwack population growth among the fastest in B.C.

City surpasses Victoria for 13th largest city in province

Human rights complaint against Chilliwack non-profit withdrawn

Human Rights Tribunal no longer has hearing scheduled for former PEARL Life Renewal Society employee

Options are key at Klyn Kitchens and Cabinets in downtown Chilliwack

Formerly based out of his home in Rosedale, Martin Klyn moved his cabinetry business to Alexander

How would crowded Fraser Valley hospitals deal with patient surge? Officials won’t say

Amid coronavirus case and crowding issues, health officials won’t say where more patients would go

VIDEO: Chilliwack arson victim lights up rural property like a runway

Chris Thompson had enough after twice having barns torched in suspicious circumstances

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

INFOGRAPHIC: See how fast your B.C. city grew in 2019

The province’s fastest-growing municipalities were located on Vancouver Island

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

Alessia Cara to host and perform at 2020 Juno Awards

Multi-platinum Canadian singer-songwriter also up for six awards, including Artist of the Year

Most Read