Seabirds are 32 times more likely to die from ingesting a balloon than hard plastics like LEGO’s or straws
A new study finds balloons are the deadliest plastic out there for seabirds.
Even though balloons represent only 2 percent of all plastics ingested by seabirds, they are responsible for 42 percent of plastic-related deaths.
Marine birds are a 32 times more likely to die from eating a little fragment of a popped balloon than they are from a hard plastic like a LEGO brick or straw, the study found.
The reason balloons are so lethal is that they’re able to squeeze into stomach cavities and then open up and block them, the researchers said.
“A hard piece of plastic has to be the absolute wrong shape and size to block a region in the birds’ gut, whereas soft rubber items can contort to get stuck,” Lauren Roman, a marine scientist at the University of Tasmania and lead author of the study, told ABC News.
Also, balloons look particularly like seafood to the birds, she said.
Fortunately, there are eco-friendlier alternatives to brighten up your next party:
Ribbon dancers and kites: Ribbon dancers and kites are just as beautiful and more engaging than balloons, as they require guests to twirl, run and move around. Plus they can take them home and keep them “forever” rather than litter them into the environment after 24 hours of decoration.
Garden spinners and pinwheels: If you’re trying to draw attention to your party, event or place of business, colorful garden spinners or flashy pinwheels do the job just as well as balloons without killing birds.
Tissue Paper Pompoms – For some color burst at parties or celebrations, these colorful tissue paper poof balls make beautiful hanging decorations. You can easily make your own and throw them in your compost when you’re done.
Floating flowers – For some, the upward drifting of balloons gives them a sense of letting go, at a funeral or memorial service. Floating flowers down a calm stream can give you the same feeling. Be sure to use native flowers.
“Biodegradable” balloons are NOT good alternatives – If you must have balloons at your party, at least ensure they say “biodegradable” on the package and do NOT release them into the air.
While latex is made of sap from rubber trees, which is technically biodegradable, many of them have chemical additives specifically designed to prevent them from degrading.
Even balloons advertised as “biodegradable” take between 6 months to a year to biodegrade, and even longer in salt water, which acts as a preservative.
Helium-filled balloons can travel hundreds of miles into the ocean and choke or starve birds long before they break down.
Never buy Mylar balloons, which are made of a metallic plastic that never breaks down.