Some days ago, Justin Williams who is a patrol guard in Texas, while walking on the shore in Surfside, something at the edge of the ocean that looked like an animal but wasn’t moving at all caught his eye.
He got closer to it and realized that it was a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle but it was all tangled in balloon strings which managed to wrap themselves around its neck too. Parts of the balloon were still attached to it. Justin said that he had also found a dead pelican that was also tangled up in balloon strings too some time ago, and some more balloons washed on the shore.
As soon as he saw this poor animal, he rushed to cut the balloon strings and try to release it. Then he quickly brought the turtle to the closest rescue center for turtles. Luckily he got there in time so the chances for the turtle to survive are high, although some scars from the strings might be left on its neck. It looked like it had been tangled for a long time.
Unfortunately, a lot of animals meet the same or worse destinies than this poor turtle. Balloons are commonly released during celebrations or another type of event without people realizing the harm they can do to animals in the air and the oceans as well.
Some studies have ranked balloons on the third place in the world’s deadliest types of litter, the first two being old fishing nets and bags made of plastic.
Balloons are dangerous for marine life in many ways. When they burst, the balloon parts may look like a jellyfish or some other animal that turtles like to eat. Also if the balloon ends up in the ocean, the strings may wrap around the animals making them unable to swim and move, or eat so they become easy prey.
Nick Mallos who is a director for ocean conservancy in the Trash Free Seas program, in an interview said:
Balloons have a big chance of getting in the oceans even if they’re released far from it. Sometimes they can get up in trees where they pose a threat to birds and similar animals that live on trees.
Nick Mallos also said:
The founder of Balloons Blow, a nonprofit organization based in Florida, Danielle Vosburgh, has openly spoken against the releasing of balloons because of how dangerous they are to animals. She also talks with companies who organize balloon releasing parties to find another alternative. For the past twenty years, she has been cleaning the shores of Florida of all types of litter. Just in 2013, she collected more than 1500 balloons that washed up on the shore of Jensen Beach, Florida.
Addressing the topic of balloons, Danielle Vosburgh said:
Vosburgh tried to make an experiment about how long will it take for a balloon to degrade, so she tied one to a tree 6 years ago near to where she lives. Despite all the weather conditions of Florida, all the sun and the high temperatures, the balloon is there to this day.
Regrettably, regular people aren’t the only ones who do these balloon releases, the most massive releases are done by bigger institutions, such as Clemson University, in South Carolina that releases hundreds of balloons made from latex at the beginning of every home football game.
Some towns in the US though, have already acknowledged the harm that balloons can do and they have prohibited the release and sale of balloons in general.
Fortunately, social media helps in raising people’s awareness that these balloons can only do harm to nature and that’s a really good thing for all the wildlife.
People have started looking for and using other degradable and eco-friendly alternatives to balloons such as banners or streamers. Many other eco-friendly objects can have the same effect as balloons, so if you want something around that can float a sphere made of paper can be a very good alternative. They can be reused and in the case of being lost, they will degrade over time.