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

Hitchhiker with metal pipe prompts RCMP to close of Highway 1 near Salmon Arm

Police respond to report of man who pointed what was believed to be a rifle at passing driver

Local Food Initiative wants public feedback for possible Garden Tour

Survey suggests some people are concerned about the RCMP, after last year’s tour

MP Morrison pushes for accountability following federal fiscal update

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian says it is time to restart the economy

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Updated: Revelstoke RCMP searching Columbia River for possible body

Three boats and a helicopter searched the river and the shoreline in the area

Sources say Canada, U.S. likely to extend mutual travel ban into late August

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility after a phone call with U.S. President

Oliver cherry farm allowed to continue operating following positive COVID-19 cases

Interior Health not concerned about health risk to individuals consuming products from farm

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

Summerland approves solar project

Despite community opposition, council voted 4-3 for Cartwright Mountain location

Police search for suspect in assault on woman in downtown Kelowna

Kelowna police received a report a woman had been assaulted by an unknown man on July 12

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Two positive COVID-19 cases at Oliver farm

The risk of exposure to the general public related to this farm is considered to be low

Oliver Town Hall closed to public as staffer displays COVID-19 symptoms

One staff member at Oliver Town Hall is being tested for coronavirus

Most Read