Most of us like a balloon, they remind us of childhood memories and birthday parties and kicking them around like footballs or having a helium balloon and making your voice go all squeaky by breathing in the gas.
Balloons can be lovely things – but unfortunately they can also be deadly to wildlife. Now a child letting go of the odd balloon – well it happens doesn’t it and it always will, but organised balloon releases on a mass scale are quite rightly getting a very bad press.
The issue being whilst the balloons look lovely drifting off into the sky to travel to who knows where and take some so called sentiment of celebration or loss with it, the truth is they come down, all of them, and the second they land and burst, they turn into litter. All sentiment and meaning gone, they are just litter. Pieces of colourful rubber, foil and ribbon littering our towns, countryside or seas. Wherever they land they just joint the MacDonalds packaging, the lager cans, the cigarette butts and become another piece of litter.
The danger is when the land or reach the seas they pose a real threat to wildlife as many animals get caught up in the ribbon or strings and can’t free them selves and worse than that, many birds, turtles and other animals often mistake balloons for food which can then cause illness or death. Ingested balloons can block an animals gut meaning they can no longer take on proper food and they then starve and die.
Given that 70% of the earth is covered in water, it’s a strong bet that many balloons will end up in the seas and oceans and cause harm to marine wildlife. Turtles are particularly at risk as they eat jellyfish and a balloon with a ribbon hanging from it, to a turtle, looks very yummy and so many turtles have suffered from the effects of eating these thinking they are jellyfish and again, these balloons blocking their stomachs and causing death.
According to the Marine Conservation Society the number of balloons and balloon pieces found on UK beaches has tripled in the last 10 years and this must be largely attributed to mass balloon releases. Whilst I can appreciate the meaning behind balloon releases, we like to think we are sending love, or thoughts up with the balloons in the hope that a loved one drifts off to peace or that good thoughts once let go will somehow come to fruition, the truth is, it’s just a whimsy from childhood and a pretty image of balloons being let go into a big open sky full of possibilities.
There are far better ways of celebrating someone’s life or congratulating an achievement. Ways that are not a danger to the environment and ways that can have a positive impact and a long lasting memory. Commemorating someone who has passed would be far better remembered by everyone scattering some flower seeds or planting a tree, something that can enhance the environment we live in and grow and be enjoyed by others and feed wildlife or house wildlife. Is this not a nicer longer lasting way of showing respect to that person and respect to the planet?
Look on Instagram under balloon releases and you’ll find so many pictures of weddings and losses and the pictures look beautiful, I’m all for a good photo, but there are consequences that are a lot less beautiful. I don’t want to post pictures in this blog pretty balloons being released anymore than I want to post pictures of hurt or dead animals, I can’t stand that on my Facebook timeline so I’m not going to include them in my blog to subject you to, but Google it, this is the link and you’ll see the impact.
Below are some of the balloons that LitterWombles have collected over the past year.
If someone suggest to you a balloon release to commemorate someone or to celebrate something, suggest back to them that planting trees or scattering wild flower seeds might be a more respectful way of showing you care.