4 Reasons To Avoid Balloon Releases (Plus 5 Activities to Do Instead)

Each year, thousands of balloons are accidentally or intentionally released into the sky. From celebrations to fundraisers, to more solemn occasions such as remembrances or memorials for loved ones who are no longer here, balloons are commonly used for a variety of activities. However, what might seem like innocent fun for us can have devastating consequences on the world around us.

What goes up must come down and balloons released into the air don’t just go away. They either become snagged on something such as a trees, deflate and make their way back down to the ground, or they rise into the sky until they pop and fall back down to the ground where they can create a host of problems.

Why You Should Avoid Balloon Releases

1. It hurts birds and other animals

Balloon debris is more of a problem than you might imagine. Birds, turtles, and other animals often mistake balloon detritus for real food. Once ingested, balloons can block the digestive tract, leaving the animal unable to take in any more food or nutrients, thus slowly starving them to death. Animals can become entangled by balloons with strings, which can leave an animal unable to move or eat. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has asked the public not to release balloons.

2. It’s bad for the environment

According to a study done by the National Office of Response and Restoration (NOAA), more than 4,916 pieces of balloon litter were found in Virginia during a five-year span, with over 3,000 of those pieces found on ocean beaches. In 2014, over 900 balloons were found in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in just a three-hour period. Those numbers are staggering, and they only get higher when we look at worldwide balloon litter.

Mylar, a popular choice for balloons, was developed by the U.S. space program. It does not biodegrade. Latex, even natural latex, can take years to biodegrade, leaving plenty of time to do harm. Releasing these types of balloons into the air is basically the same thing as throwing litter directly on the ground or in the water. 

3. It’s bad for communities

It might not seem readily apparent but the debris from balloon releases can even have an economic impact on communities. Balloon debris can contribute to dirty beaches, which can drive away tourists. Tangled ribbons in power lines can lead to outages within power grids.

4. Helium is a finite resource

The earth only has a finite supply of helium. Gravity can’t hold onto the tiny element, and because it’s small enough to slip through holes in rocks, helium can escape quickly into the upper atmosphere and disappear into space. The biggest problem is that there is no substitute for it. It’s one of the most stable elements, it doesn’t react with other elements, nor does it burn. It’s used to purge rocket engines for NASA, and is an essential part of cryogenics and computer drives. One of the most critical uses for helium is to cool MRI machines.

Balloons—which use about a cubic feet of helium—account for eight percent of the world’s annual supply.

Environmental & Wildlife-Friendly Alternatives

There are plenty of alternatives to balloon releases. Let’s take a look at ways to have fun and celebrate with environmental and wildlife-friendly alternatives.

ribbon-dancing

1. Ribbon Dancing

Instead of offering balloons at parties or celebrations, why not offer ribbons instead? Children will enjoy how the ribbons flutter and fly in the air, plus ribbons don’t pop so there won’t be any tears about a disappearing toy.

kites

2. Kites

One of the reasons that balloon releases are so popular is because people like to watch them float into the sky. Flying kites is a great way to mimic the floating and flying of balloons. The best part? You can reuse them over and over again.

pinwheels

3. Pinwheels

One of my favorite activities as a child was spinning pinwheels, and even as an adult I love to watch them spin gently in the wind. While pinwheels can’t be released into the sky, a field of spinning pinwheels can be a colorful alternative for special occasions.

bubbles

4. Bubbles

It’s easy to recreate the excitement and joy of watching balloons float into the sky using simple soap bubbles. Children and adults alike can have fun “releasing” bubbles over and over again, all without leaving litter behind. Here’s a DIY recipe for making bubbles yourself (no Dawn required).

balloon-on-a-stick

5. Balloons on Sticks

Rather than giving a child a helium balloon on a string that can accidentally get released into the sky, you can simply fill a balloon with air and attach it to a stick. They’ll still get to enjoy the feeling of a floating balloon without the risk of losing it into the environment.

Conclusion

Thankfully, some states and countries have enacted laws regarding the release of balloons, but balloons are a multi-billion dollar industry that spends millions of dollars lobbying to keep balloon releases legal. Because of the damage to the environment and wildlife, releasing balloons should be included in existing litter laws. After all, that’s what it simply is.

To take action on the issue of balloon releases, you can sign a petition or start a petition of your own.

90 comments

natasha s
natasha s2 months ago

The practise of releasing balloons needs a universal ban. Horrible selfish thing to do.

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Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

Interesting, tks for posting.

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Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

Interesting, tks for posting.

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Twila H
Twila H2 months ago

I love the kite alternative.! Thanks for sharing this article and it's message!

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

thanks

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Carl R
Carl R2 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago

Thanks.

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

RK R : how many people live amongst us who have a very big mouth... nearly as big as that of Donald (Duck) Trump ?? So everyone who releases a balloon is a Neantherthal Thanks so very much for this compliment. There are millions and millions, not billions and billions of people who do NOT KNOW the danger of helium filled balloons. So Donald Trump is GOD, and you are his 1st assistant !!!!! Bravo !! You should at least get a medal... and your photographs spread all over, newspapers, televisions, social media and much much more. When someone reasons the way you do, it is a moron !!!

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

Heather G : can you name me some countries where balloon releasing is totally forbidden. And my country is not belonging to this list. So, we are retarded Europeans or what ??

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx2 months ago

May be you are using lots and lots more balloons than we do in Europe. We sometimes have a couple of balloons for marriages, but when we get 30 altogether, it is BIG !! However, we use lots of balloons, once every couple of years. For instance, when the bodies were found of 4 little girls, who had been kept in a cellar cage, sometimes days and days without food or water. And they were raped several times, in presence of each other... When the predator was finally arrested and put behind bars, he finally told the police that another 2 girls were still in his cellar. When these girls were saved, still being alive (barely) an organisation was started, viz. Child Focus, because police had failed in finding the bastard and there was no co-operation between several departments of police and justice. When over 30,000 people came together in Brussels to protest, hundreds and hundreds of white balloons were released. It was really amazing to see that so many people got together and so many balloons were released at the same time. But to my knowledge (and I am 66) this was the ONLY time we had such a massive balloon release. So, our balloon releasing will not harm very much....

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