Balloon releases are bad for the environment – fact. If you are considering a balloon release in memory of your loved one, we hope that after reading this blog you will see how detrimental they are for wildlife. It sounds nice to remember someone by tying a piece of seed paper to balloons and releasing them so that where they land, flowers will grow. But balloons will float off for miles, landing in the sea or in trees, not always on the ground. There is also the fact that the piece of seed paper you have attached to the balloon will also potentially land in the sea or on grass, where it will not grow the seeds. Additionally, if the balloon lands in the countryside and the paper does germinate, you are spreading non-native flowers into the countryside.
Aren’t Modern Balloons Supposed to be Biodegradable?
To an extent, they are and modern latex balloons are sold as biodegradable because they are made from rubber tree sap. But this is rather misleading – although latex does degrade faster than synthetic plastic or foil balloons, they nevertheless remain intact long enough to cause death to the wildlife they come in contact with – and they still take months or years to biodegrade down.
According to the Marine Conservation Society, the amount of balloon debris found on beaches in the UK has tripled in the last 10 years. Marine animals often mistake these balloon bits for food and so eat them, resulting in internal blockages in their stomach and intestines, leading in most cases to starvation and death. Sperm whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks have all been found with balloon remains in their stomachs. Turtles in particular are affected as balloon debris resembles jellyfish in water, which they love to eat. Birds are also affected by balloons by ingesting them or getting entangled with the string and dying a nasty lingering death from starvation or infected wounds from the string.
It’s not just marine creatures and birds who suffer from balloon releases, land animals do too:
The lamb in the photo below was strangled by balloon string wrapped around its neck and foot, prompting M&S (who did the balloon release) to ban balloon advertising in 2008.
Habitat Loss is also a consequence of the balloon industry
The increase in demand for rubber from tropical trees has led to vegetation being cleared to make way for plantations of rubber trees to satisfy demand for rubber products. This practice deprives many animals of their natural habitat and has a knock-on effect on their survival. By buying balloons you are helping to support deforestation and decline in habitat.
It only takes one balloon to take a life
Each balloon is a potential deathtrap for wildlife. By releasing balloons you are also, quite literally, littering. But as more people are becoming aware of the environmental hazards of balloon releases, more is being done to stop them. Some local authorities in the UK have even banned them – South Hams, Oxfordshire, Shetland Islands and Cardiff. Canterbury City Council has also banned balloon releases on council-owned land. Why not lobby your local authority to ban them too?
Environmentally-friendly Alternatives to Balloon Releases
As alternatives to balloons to remember your loved one, why not consider the following ideas:
Give out seed paper balloon shapes – for people to write their loved one’s name on and plant to grow flowers
Float flowers down a stream or on the sea – a good symbolic way of letting go to remember a loved one, or even to celebrate a beach wedding or event
Give away wildflower seeds – a brilliant way to remember the event for a long time! Wildflowers will give something back to you (prettiness) and wildlife (nectar).
Fundraising – create a fundraising event or donate money as a memory of your event
Bubbles – great fun and a great way to symbolically release a memory of your event
Virtual balloon race – great fun! Check them out online! As virtualballoonrace.com say – “everything is real except the balloon. Real launch locations, real weather data and real maps. Our complex mathematical algorithms mean that the virtual balloon mimics exactly what a real latex balloon would do without potentially killing a bird or animal in the process”.
Remember – it really only takes one balloon to take a life
Please share this information widely to help our wildlife.