Balloons as Litter

What goes up, must come down.

Use balloons for decoration and in your images, but please don’t let them go.

Is there such a thing as an “environmentally friendly” balloon release?  No. 100% of released balloons return to the earth (or the ocean) as litter.  Guess you can say there is a “down side” to balloons.

kempridleyjuvballooningestb-witheringtonflorida-fish-and-wildlife-conservation-commissionUnfortunately, balloon litter or debris, often ends up in streams, rivers, and the ocean, where marine animals can mistake it for prey.  The animals can ingest the balloons or become entangled by the ribbons and strings tied to balloons, causing injury and even death. In the water, balloons can look a great deal like jellyfish—a major source of food for many animals.  Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs.

How long are latex balloons dangerous to wildlife after they enter the ocean?

“Latex rubber balloons are an important category of product in the marine environment. Promotional releases of balloons that descend into the sea pose a serious ingestion and/or entanglement hazard to marine animals.  Based on the fairly rapid disintegration of balloons on exposure to sunlight in air, the expectation is that balloons do not pose a particularly significant problem.  In an experiment we carried out in North Carolina we observed that balloons exposed floating in seawater deteriorated much slower than those exposed in air, and even after 12 months of exposure still retained their elasticity.”
From the article: Plastics and Their Impacts in the Marine Environment by Anthony L. Andrady, Program Manager and Senior Research Scientist, Chemistry and Life Sciences Division, Research Triangle Institute, North Carolina. Proceedings of the International Marine Debris Conference on Derelict Fishing Gear and the Ocean Environment, August 6-11, 2000 Hawai’i Convention Center Honolulu, Hawai’i

We can celebrate with balloons, but please don’t let them go!

Learn about the Virginia Balloon Litter Research Study (being conducted by Clean Virginia Waterways and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center)

Learn about laws regarding balloon releases.

For more information on balloons as litter, please visit these websites:

Clean Virginia Waterways

Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program

Balloons Blow