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Protect Wildlife: Help Control Fly-Away Balloons

Excerpt from the VCS Conservation Almanac

While we’re cleaning beaches next Saturday, one thing we’re sure to find are balloons. Almost no one would just leave a balloon on the beach, or anywhere else that they value for its beauty, but what many don’t realize is that once a balloon gets loose, it usually travels a very long distance. That’s surely part of the point behind the intentional mass releases at graduations and other important occasions: the symbolism of freedom and the promise of travel to unknown distant places.
With roughly 70% of the Earth’s surface covered by water, it’s no surprise that – unlike graduating seniors – a great many of these travelers end up coming to rest in the ocean, contributing to Earth’s five great ocean garbage patches or to litter on beaches worldwide. This, from a Q&A in Audubon magazine, summarizes the threats to wildlife well:
At best, free-flying balloons become litter; at worst, they jeopardize wildlife. . . . Balloons can choke, smother, or cause starvation. Their strings and ribbons can cause entanglement. In water, they bear an uncanny resemblance to jellyfish and other organisms eaten by turtles, fish, cetaceans, and shorebirds. Dead sea turtles have washed ashore with balloons hanging from their mouths, and scientists have found whole balloons and parts of balloons in whales during necropsies.
The rest of the answer provides more interesting information, including distances travelled and various prohibitions. On the other hand, a warning . . . Unless you’re in the mood for some appallingly ironic examples from the wide world of mylar balloons, do not click these links.