Balloon Releases are a Biohazard

The death of young Alfie Evans this past weekend was marked by the release of thousands of balloons into the atmosphere. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that what goes up must come down … and will often result in the death of wildlife and damage to infrastructure. Why must one tragedy be compounded by another?

A common argument I hear about balloon releases is “But they’re biodegradable!”, like that makes everything better. It doesn’t stop birds from getting caught in the ribbon. It doesn’t stop sea life or livestock from eating the balloon before it degrades … if it ever does.

How long is acceptable for a littered balloon to stay in the environment? A week? A month? A year? Based on my own Litter Watch experiments, a balloon that was advertised as biodegradable showed absolutely no changes after being left outside for a full 365 days. So here’s my request for those who wish to release balloons—stake one outside and, once it has fully degraded, decide if you still want to release hundreds or thousands of them into the environment.

Can’t wait that long? Then blow bubbles. Or plant trees. Or scatter wildflower seeds. There are so many ways to celebrate or commemorate life than with a mass littering event. Microbeads, plastic straws, and plastic cotton buds are on the list of things that have been banned or soon will be—can we please make sure balloon releases are next on the list?

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