If 2018 was the year of the plastic straw ban then 2019 might shape out to be the year of balloon bans in coastal areas. Before you rush to judgment and say to yourself “these bans are going too far” just consider the fact that balloons filled with helium which are released into the air during celebrations eventually deflate and have to land somewhere. That somewhere is usually waterways where they litter shorelines and animals mistakenly eat them as food. While companies that make balloons claim that they are biodegradable that’s certainly a questionable claim as the latex balloons are made out of can take years to breakdown. Mylar balloons are even worse as they don’t biodegrade at all! (Interestingly enough, the New York Times was talking about the dangers of balloons to the environment in 1990, kudos to them!)
There’s yet to be a flurry of cities and companies banning balloons but it’s still early in the year and as we saw in 2018, once the first several bans took effect, countless more followed. So it should be a hopeful sign that the Boston Globe recently reported that towns along Cape Cod are working to ban balloons filled with gas lighter than air (i.e. helium) so that they don’t wind up in the biodiverse waters of Cape Cod Bay. Hopefully, this builds on the momentum of New Shoreham, RI’s unanimous ban on the sale of balloons last summer.
Why This Matters: As with plastic bags and plastic straws, banning these items has faced some pushback from people not wanting to change their habits until everyone starts doing it and folks realize it’s not that big of a deal. Balloons serve even less purpose than plastic bags and straws as they are purely decorative and there are plenty of ways to celebrate that don’t involve using single-use items that pollute our planet. But since balloons are so synonymous with celebrations it’s going to take us to talk to our families and friends about switching away from balloons and keeping the planet in mind.
What You Can Do: Advocacy group, Balloons Blow, has lots of great resources for how you can talk to others about forgoing balloons, alternatives to balloons, info on beach cleanups, and even tips on how to break up a balloon release. If you’re wary of feeling like a Grinch for suggesting a balloon-free celebration they have you covered!