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By Guest Blogger Steve Jasiecki of Sustainable Downbeach
Whatever goes up must come down, and so it goes with
balloons. Whether intentional or not, helium-filled balloons released into the
air fall back to earth, becoming hazardous to marine and wildlife.
In the ocean, balloons or pieces of balloons resemble
jellyfish, a common food of whales, dolphins, turtles and other species. When
eaten, the material gets lodged in the digestive tract, making it unable to
digest its food and the creature slowly starves to death. Cows, sheep, camels,
dogs and other land animals also share in this fate when mistaking balloons for
food. Along the coast, marine biologists are finding more and more marine
mammals and birds washing up on the shores, caused by the ingestion of plastics
Coastal communities have seen an increase of balloons in the
ocean and washing up on their shores.
Fisherman and boaters are all too familiar with seeing them floating in
Many businesses are moving away from decorating their shops
with balloons and using more environmentally friendly alternatives. Flags, banners, streamers, whirligigs, and
dancing inflatables are prime examples. They are eye-catching, attractive and
reusable. They save owners time and
money and can be used again and again.
Image from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Lastly, moving away from balloons saves valuable
helium. Helium is a non-renewable gas
that is in limited supply. Like oil and
coal it took millions of years for the earth to produce the helium that we
have. We cannot create any more. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and it is going
fast. Helium is needed for the medical
industry, research, industrial use, equipment testing and other important
purposes. It is far too valuable to be
wasted and released into the air where it will never be recovered.
Five states and several cities have enacted balloon laws to
combat this growing problem. In 2014, the
City of Margate passed an ordinance prohibiting the mass release of helium
balloons. The Margate Business
Association will not allow balloons of any kind to be part of any of their
functions or events. The Ventnor “Go
Green Parade” has discouraged the use of balloons and is asking everyone to
eliminate them entirely from future events. Many real estate companies have stopped using them to promote “Open Houses.” In their place, they are using banner flags
to attract people.
More and more people
are coming on board. We are encouraging elected
officials to take heed and to start taking active measures to help protect their
communities by passing ordinances that prevent the release of helium balloons. After all, releasing balloons is really
Sustainable Downbeach is working toward creating a healthier, friendlier community with an eye on protecting the environment. For information or to get involved see Sustainable Downbeach on Facebook.
The views, opinions and positions expressed are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The Atlantic County Utilities Authority.
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