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

Shoot the Moon pub passes public hearing stage

Rod Alsop and Jon Ludtke’s proposed pub is one step closer after a packed public hearing

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP visits Wet’suwet’en camps, calls for Coastal GasLink pipeline to be ‘revisited’

Paul Manly met with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the RCMP to talk about the ongoing situation

BREAKING: LSS evacuated after reports of ‘gas smell’

Students were evacuated to Frank Jameson Community Centre, but have since returned to class

Successful end to search for kayakers along the Chemainus River

Father and son located tired and cold, but otherwise OK

Ladysmith Art Council announces new Poet in Residence

John Edwards will serve as the inaugural Poet in Residence

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

Uber, Lyft approved for ride-hailing in Lower Mainland

Kater Technologies Inc.’s application was rejected

B.C. man rescued after getting trapped headfirst in well as water level rose

The rescue involved crews from Oak Bay and Saanich

Investigators in wildfire-torn Australia head to site of B.C. airtanker crash

The B.C. government sends condolences to Port Alberni-owned Coulson Aviation

RCMP investigating sexual allegation against Lower Mainland police officer

Delta officer suspended while the alleged off-duty incident involving a co-worker is investigated

Former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse in B.C. granted day parole

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s

VIDEO: Person in wheelchair narrowly avoids collision with car in Kelowna

There were no injuries in the scary looking near-accident last week in Rutland

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

Most Read