We know that every action that we do, has its consequences. But at times we are not aware of the other possible effects of doing something that looks harmless. This is one of the reasons that animal lovers have informed that even if we aren’t aware of it, releasing balloons can be a serious threat to animals, which includes dolphins, wild birds, whales and sea turtles, as they can ingest pieces of the balloon or be tangled up in balloon strings.
According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), animals can confuse bright, small pieces of balloon as food, and they go on to say that: “Balloons that are released into the air don’t just go away, they either get snagged on something such as tree branches or electrical wires, deflate and make their way back down, or rise until they pop and fall back to Earth where they can create a lot of problems. Many balloons that are not properly disposed of end up in the ocean and along shores, becoming marine debris….Balloons can be mistaken for food, and if eaten and ingested, balloons and other marine debris can lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, starvation, and death. String or ribbon that is often found attached to balloons can cause entanglement. String can wrap around marine life causing injury, illness, and suffocation.”
An organization that “provides information to educate people about the destructive effects released balloons have on animals, people, and the environment, and strives to inspire and promote an eco-conscious lifestyle”, Balloon Blow, goes on to explain that: “All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as “biodegradable latex,” return to Earth as ugly litter. They kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages. Balloons are also a waste of Helium, a finite resource. Balloons can travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places. Once they do, they become a danger to any animal that comes in contact with it.”
When an Australian resident Josie Jones was cleaning the trash in a beach when she witnessed this heartbreaking scene. It broke her heart to see a poor wild penguin, which had its feet tangled up and knotted by four balloon strings. But it was too late. The poor creature hadn’t been able to free himself before it was too late.
After sharing this horrible scene with Earthcare St Kilda, a local organization, they had gone on to explain everything in a Facebook post, which stated as follows: “An entanglement such as this would impair the penguin’s swimming ability, resulting in starvation or drowning. Both the ribbon and balloons are to blame for this death. These were someone’s balloons. Was it worth it?”
Even though we can’t do anything for the poor penguin now, we have a much greater chance of doing more and saving other innocent lived if we are able to start using environmentally friendly substitutes to balloons.
One of Earthcare St Kilda, Flossy Sperring went on to say that “One of the important steps to protecting wildlife from plastic pollution is to reduce our consumption. In terms of sustainable celebrations, there are so many environmentally friendly alternatives… paper decorations like lanterns or confetti, candles, native (or non-native) plants/flowers and more … It’s so easy; people just need to be willing to say goodbye to old habits.”