Balloon releases put wildlife at risk, become trash

Ever wonder where released balloons go once they float over the tree line or horizon? We do, after all, release millions and millions of them each year, commemorating everything from birthdays and sporting events to business openings and anniversaries.

Turns out a lot of them are coming down in bodies of water like the Great Lakes. Surveys from volunteer trash pickup events sponsored by the environmental nonprofit Alliance for the Great Lakes found more than 18,000 balloons, balloon pieces or balloon strings along Great Lakes shorelines between 2016 and last year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The balloons and attendant strings are killing birds and other aquatic dwellers, which has led five states to limit or ban intentional balloon releases. At least eight others are considering restrictions but not Michigan — so far.

“People don’t think about it as being litter,” Christina Trapani, a beach cleanup volunteer at a Virginia wildlife refuge, said. “(But) if it goes up, it’s going to come down sooner or later.”

For its part, the balloon industry says it does not encourage balloon releases and in fact hopes people use balloons responsibility before disposing of them properly.

File this one under common sense. If it goes up, it’s going to come down and possibly kill wildlife when it does. Let’s use our heads and not release balloons.

Here’s something all of us can do. Anyone finding balloons or balloon remnants can report online at: https://arcg.is/1OfbKT.


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