There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly released balloon
Most people would never throw litter out their car window because it’s illegal. Yet many participate in balloon releases at celebrations and memorials, and their remnants too often become deadly to wildlife, particularly sea turtles, sea birds and other marine mammals who mistake them for food or get entangled in their ribbons.
That’s why Friends of Animals supports legislation prohibiting the intentional release of any helium-filled balloons. Hawaii, Maryland and Virginia are the only states that prohibit outdoor balloon releases altogether. California, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Rhode Island and Tennessee have restrictions. We are actively campaigning for a ban in Connecticut and hope to get a bill across the finish line next year.
Please help us spread the message, “Say no to letting it go.”
BALLOON LITTER IMPACTS
– Metallic inks and paints on foil balloons flake off when exposed to environmental factors leaving a clear plastic balloon. In the water, these balloons can resemble squid and jellyfish.
– Balloons are ranked third after fishing gear and plastic bags/utensils as litter items that pose the greatest entanglement and ingestion risk to wildlife.
– From 2016-2019, volunteers participating in the International Coastal Cleanup reported more than 29,800 littered balloons in MidAtlantic states—New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Of these, 15,076 balloons were found in New York, 6,626 were found in New Jersey, and Virginia volunteers found 4,154 balloons.
– A 2019 study found balloons are the highest-risk plastic debris item for seabirds—32 times more likely to kill them than ingesting hard plastics.
– Balloons can travel great distances. In 2006, a beach cleanup volunteer in Virginia found a balloon with an attached note indicating that it had been released in Oklahoma, more than 1,300 miles away.
Ideas for remembering a loved one include distributing native seeds to plant, installing a bird bath or bench at a park near a loved one’s home, creating a wildlife garden with native plants that will attract butterflies and birds or lighting candles or luminaries. For celebrations, blowing bubbles, lighting sparklers, and playing musical instruments are all uplifting and don’t harm the environment or wildlife
We encourage you to share this information by downloading our two-sided “Say No to Letting It Go” handout and passing it out to friends, family, school groups, churches and other venues that may include balloons as part of their celebrations.
FoA also applauds the messaging of the Joyful Sendoff Campaign (joyfulsendoff.org), a Virginia-based program that began in 2017. It has since expanded to the Mid-Atlantic Prevent Balloon Litter campaign across MD, NY, DE and NJ and is reflected on PreventBalloonLitter.org, which is funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Office of Coastal Management.
If you are interested in proposing a ban on the release of helium-filled balloons in your state or local municipality, here is the legislation as proposed in the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2023 session: “An Act Concerning The Intentional Release Of Certain Balloons.”
FoA OpEd (2023): “What goes up must come down”
The Conversation (2020): “Balloon releases have deadly consequences”