Time to stop balloon pollution and danger
When I first saw a news item about the balloons damage to the environment, and the needless suffering and death of wildlife, I was a little puzzled to begin with, having wrongly assumed the subject was giant hot-air balloons.
As usual, making an assumption meant making a mistake, and the real subject being referred was the increasingly common mass releases of small, helium filled balloons to mark public event, appeals, charity events, and worst of all – as advertising.
Having referred to the end of the Co-op’s plastic carrier bags, and Glasgows’s achievement of making the bottom of the local authorities’ recycling list, this item seemed to have an increased relevance. In terms of pollution, if the organiser of the balloon release was seen dumping the uninflated balloons and attached strings and labels somewhere, then they’d be reported and fined for fly-tipping, illegal dumping, or littering. However, because they inflate the balloons with helium and let them disappear into the sky, they get away with it, even though their balloons will eventually fall out of the sky and become someone else’s litter. And it’s worth bearing in mind that this will be long-lived litter, as they won’t be bio-degrading in a hurry. Perhaps the little lables they carry should be handed into the police or local authority, instead of being sent back to the owner to let them know how far their balloon went, and the authorities could let them know – along with a little fine for their trouble.
However, the more serious aspect of these releases has been highlighted by Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which has appealed organisers of balloon releases to look for different ways to publicise their causes. Their studies have found that these events have almost trebled in occurrence in recent years, and that they are finding more instance of harm to wildlife, either tangled and trapped in the string, or killed as a result of swallowing the deflated balloon and string. They report a recent international survey which found nearly 60,000 balloons over a two-day period last year.
This may not be a huge problem in the bigger picture, but is something that’s basically unnecessary, wasteful, polluting, and ultimately hazardous to wildlife, and is best avoided. There are plenty of alternatives if a little publicity is needed, even using balloons, and which don’t bring the same disadvantages.