Local

Activists Look To Ban BALLOONS After Success With Plastic Straws

Now that plastic straws may be headed for extinction, could Americans’ love of balloons be deflated?

The joyous celebration of releasing balloons into the air has long bothered environmentalists, who say the pieces that fall back to earth can be deadly to seabirds and turtles that eat them. So as companies vow to banish plastic straws, there are signs balloons will be among the products to get more scrutiny, even though they’re a very small part of environmental pollution.

This year, college football powerhouse Clemson University is ending its tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before games, a move that’s part of its sustainability efforts. In Virginia, a campaign that urges alternatives to balloon releases at weddings is expanding. And a town in Rhode Island outright banned the sale of all balloons earlier this year, citing the harm to marine life.

“There are all kinds of alternatives to balloons, a lot of ways to express yourself,” says Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, who cites posters, piñatas and decorated paper.

Following efforts to limit plastic bags, the push by environmentalists against straws has gained traction in recent months, partly because they’re seen as unnecessary for most. Companies including Starbucks and Disney are promising to phase out plastic straws, which can be difficult to recycle because of their size and often end up as trash in the ocean. A handful of U.S. cities recently passed or are considering bans. And the push may bring attention to other items people may not have considered — like festive balloons.

“The issue of straws has really broadened the marine debris issue,” says Emma Tonge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People might not realize balloons are a danger, she says, because of their “light and whimsical” image.

Balloons are not among the top 10 kinds of debris found in coastal cleanups, but Tongue says they’re common and especially hazardous to marine animals, which can also get entangled in balloon strings.

Chelsea Rochman, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Toronto, says people should think systemically about waste and pollution, but that efforts to bring attention to specific products shouldn’t be dismissed as too minor.

“If we said that about everything, we wouldn’t get anything done,” she says.

Already, a few states restrict balloon releases to some extent, according to the Balloon Council, which represents the industry and advocates for the responsible handling of its products to “uphold the integrity of the professional balloon community.” That means never releasing them into the air, and ensuring the strings have a weight tied to them so the balloons don’t accidentally float away.

Lorna O’Hara, executive director of the Balloon Council, doesn’t dispute that marine creatures might mistake balloons for jellyfish and eat them. But she says that doesn’t mean balloons are necessarily causing their deaths.

Clean Virginia Waterways still thinks balloons can be harmful. Included in its report last year: A photo of a soaring bird with a deflated balloon trailing behind it.

The report addresses the “rising concern” of balloons, which also often use helium, a non-renewable resource. It notes the difficulty of changing a social norm and that even typing “congrats” in a Facebook post results in an animation of balloons. It even claims the media play a role and that some groups conduct balloon releases “just so reporters will cover the event.”

“We don’t want to say don’t use them at all. We’re saying just don’t release them,” says Laura McKay of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program.

Some states such as California ban balloon releases for other reasons. Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves northern and central California, says metallic balloons caused 203 power outages in the first five months of this year, up 22 percent from a year ago.

Lacoste thinks other towns, particularly those along the coasts, will also ban balloons as people become more aware of environmental issues. He notes that plastic bags were once seen as harmless, but many places now ban them.

(AP)

Click to add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Local

More in Local

796d54538a0702ed1fbc5d626aed64e8.jpg

Postal Service’s Red Ink For 12th Year As Letter Mail Drops

adminNovember 15, 2018
1d6a2e882baa33621f9e13ef7e2a679f.jpg

WEATHER ALERT – Winter Storm Headed To Tri-State Area On Thursday

adminNovember 15, 2018
90a195e1a57cfc5f32ad81b29ebcbdbf.jpg

B&H Photo Slams NY Post For “False Article” Alleging Gifts Only To Jewish Employees Who Have Babies

adminNovember 15, 2018
e99e1116afe24a4eaf3adafa1cae01ee.jpg

WHITE HOUSE DRAMA: President Trump Mulls Wide-Ranging Cabinet Shake-Up

adminNovember 14, 2018
3b3a44f26342026f1979ce9c8afceb34.jpg

Amazon’s NYC Home In ‘Opportunity Zone’ For Trump Tax Break

adminNovember 14, 2018
e2f100a9aae0d51627d193fd18d34e34.jpg

FBI Report Shows 17 Percent Spike In Hate Crimes In 2017

adminNovember 14, 2018
3c169931a41b308c5ec2b9fc8f87b994.jpg

Lieberman Resigns From Defense Minister Post, Party Leaves Coalition; Calling for Elections; Bayit Yehudi May be Following Suit

adminNovember 14, 2018
5db02821f54970d68ac60f999d776211.jpg

Trump Calls on Florida Democrat to Concede, Implies Fraud

adminNovember 13, 2018
60268b87e44125cfcafbbce238415747.jpg

Amazon Splits Second HQ Between New York, Virginia

adminNovember 13, 2018