Balloons in the air are not making people happy anymore. Because they know it will eventually come down. And when it does, the consequences for animals are terrible. Luckily, since we started our campaign, more and more municipalities are banning balloon releases. Despite these initiatives, we are still finding about 12 balloons per 100 metres of beach along some coastlines.
Birds, fish, and marine mammals can mistake the remnants of balloons for food or get caught in the ribbons. On top of this, balloons that come down in the sea contribute to the plastic soup phenomenon. Therefore, together with Stichting De Noordzee and Vereniging Kust & Zee we advocate for a ban on balloon releases. Estimates show that one million balloons are released every year and according to TNO research, 26% of these end up in the sea. That is about 260,000 balloons every year. So, it is not surprising that balloons and their remnants are amongst the top 5 most-found litter items on beaches for years.
Biodegradable balloons might sound good, but they are not a viable alternative. According to the University of Wageningen, it takes these balloons years to degrade and this means that they can still block the stomachs and intestines of marine animals. Birds, fish, and marine mammals would still starve to death, even if the balloons are supposedly biodegradable. If you are looking for something that still makes people smile, think about super big blowing bubbles, kites, or a lantern procession.
We are encouraging municipalities, Oranjeverenigingen (societies which organise events on significant dates in the Netherlands’ calendar), and companies to stop releasing balloons. The Dutch Government has had a ‘discouragement policy’ since 2014, but the responsibility to ban balloon releases ultimately rests within each municipality. If you want to know your municipality’s policy, click here (only for NL). If your municipality still does not have a ban, you can submit a motion. The Stichting De Noordzee website explains how you can do this.
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