Eco Tip: Balloons Are No Party for Wildlife

Marsha Low, for the Weavers Way Environment Committee

It’s summertime, and that means lots of outdoor parties and celebrations. And what better way to make the occasion festive than with balloons, particularly a balloon release? Don’t cut that string just yet. Unfortunately, balloons wreak havoc on the environment and wildlife, no matter the type. Mylar balloons are composed of synthetic nylon with a metallic coating and are not biodegradable. Latex balloons do decompose, but can take anywhere from six months to four years to break down and are capable of causing plenty of harm to wildlife in the meantime.

Both terrestrial and marine animals mistake balloons for food. Sea turtles are particularly vulnerable, since they often confuse them with their jellyfish prey. Once ingested, balloons can cause stomach or intestinal blockages, leading to starvation and death. And the strings attached to balloons can be just as dangerous. Birds become entangled in them, and the fins and flippers of marine animals such as turtles, seals and dolphins get ensnared, restricting their movement and compromising their ability to hunt and eat. These entanglements can also cause cuts (and even amputations) leading to infections, starvation, drowning and death.

So consider and choose eco-friendly and creative ways to make your party or celebration special — ways that don’t litter our environment or harm wildlife. You’ll have a few more things to celebrate if you do!