Have you ever thought about what happens to balloons drifting skyward after a festive release at a party?

With Earth Day approaching, I looked into this topic to discover the environmental effects of balloon releases. I’m currently taking a plastic pollution course at Bennington College, which has drawn my attention to balloons. Balloon releases are formal events in which numerous hydrogen and/or helium-filled balloons are unleashed into the sky. While visually appealing, these releases pose a major threat to local ecosystems once the balloons deflate and become litter.

Balloon litter is not biodegradable, but litters the environment for decades. Balloons cause more seabird fatalities than any other kind of marine debris. Marine animals, such as sea turtles, suffer, starve and die after eating indigestible balloons mistaken for food. Balloons labeled as biodegradable do not degrade rapidly enough to avoid being consumed by wildlife.

As of today, only five out of the 50 U.S. states have implemented balloon release laws. The states of California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia have paved a new path for environmental legislation on the behalf of our ecosystem. Perhaps the Vermont Legislature should pass a similar law?

The next time you hold a balloon by its ribbon, do not let go.

Ivan Orozco


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