The Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew is asking for suggestions on ways they can get the word out that balloons may be a symbol of celebration for us, but they’re deadly for our marine animals and wildlife. But how do you stop such an age old tradition?
While most of us are relaxing on the last Sunday of each month, the tireless and dedicated Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew are out again and picking up rubbish on our beaches and waterways. And it’s not just a weekend task, they have a website, Facebook page and Instagram and work away educating people on how to help save our planet. But one particular plea is falling on deaf ears – that balloons are killing our ocean animals.
When they recently spotted an image of a car procession driving through the streets with each car covered in balloons, they took to their Instagram in dismay calling on the community to please help them get the word out that balloons might signify a celebration for us, but they’re wreaking devastation in our oceans:
“We need your help – which is the best way of reaching people and educating them about the damages balloons have to the environment and wildlife?
This is a picture from today, taken in our local Northern Beaches community to celebrate a child’s birthday. People honestly (we believe) did their best to celebrate a child’s birthday despite all lockdown rules. There were little super heroes in the cars, people waving and honestly so much love and care that we all need in these trying times. We love all about this, but how can we help people celebrate without balloons?
Balloons are in the top three most harmful waste items to wildlife. Birds and turtles not only ingest balloons, they actively select them as food. Ingesting balloons, and the clips and strings attached to them, can cause intestinal blockages and results in a slow painful death through starvation. Wildlife, both terrestrial and marine, can also become entangled in balloon ribbons or strings, causing injury or death through drowning, suffocation, or an inability to feed and avoid predators.
Even if balloons are disposed of “safely” they go to landfill where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaching potentially toxic substances into the soil and water. Even if these balloons are biodegradable, it’s greenwash. Natural latex may be biodegradable, but after adding chemicals, plasticizers and artificial dyes, how natural could it be? It may degrade after several years, but it’s surely not “biodegradable.” Balloons are also the number 1 cause of death in sea birds such as Albatross and Mutton birds that have consumed plastic.
It’s always hard to halt a timeless tradition, but, as the Crew points out, there are many other alternatives to balloons:
- cardboard bunting
- paper lanterns
- Japanese paper balloons
- paper planes or origami animals
- paper kites
- paper pinwheels
- handmade paper stars
- pom poms
You can follow this inspiring Group on their socials for more and if you have any suggestions for getting the word out further on how dangerous balloons are for marine life, please let them know!