Congratulations! Happy Birthday! Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Graduation! You’re Special! It’s a girl! What do these all have in common? These were all tokens of happiness, love and all good things to celebrate.
21. What is this number? It’s the number of mylar balloons we collected in April 2017 during an 8 day survey. This does not include the numerous latex balloons we picked up as well. At least triple this number and that is what we typically collect during our surveys when they occur just after a holiday like Valentine’s Day. This is just from what we see while surveying our tiny space in this vast ocean and what we have time to pick up.
Why be so negative about balloons? Well, once they have served their purpose, they are trash, trash that is unnecessarily polluting the environment. Aside from showing disrespect to this beautiful planet we are fighting to protect, releasing balloons kill wildlife, both terrestrial and marine. Turtles mistake these shiny symbols of human joy for jellyfish. Birds get entangled in balloon ribbon. Big horn sheep ingest latex balloons instead of foliage. Both types of balloons have been found in the stomachs of whales and dolphins. This list of examples goes on and on…… People can argue that latex balloons are biodegradable and therefore “environmentally friendly”, but during that lengthy breakdown process, they wreak havoc wherever they land.
From this point on, instead of just picking up balloons, we started documenting them in our database to continue to raise awareness to this problem. For those that ask what they can do to help the environment, this is another example of a small change, with major positive results. If you must use balloons to express your joy, please be sure they are never released into the air either intentionally or by accident, and dispose of them properly. While out on a stroll on the beach or on your favorite trails and you come across balloons (or any trash), remember how deadly they become once they land and pick them up. Let's continue to teach respect for this planet and spread the word!