Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Up, Up But Never Away – Balloon Litter in NYS

balloonsDEC field staff often encounter littered balloons, even when working in NY’s most remote areas. In fact, some DEC Forestry staff who perform forest surveys find littered balloons almost daily, and DEC staff in the Bureau of Wildlife in Region 4 pickup and collect balloons they find while doing field work throughout the nine counties that makeup the region. On our beaches, DEC’s Marine Resources staff are learning more about balloon litter in NY’s coastal areas through coastal balloon litter surveys conducted through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris grant.

Littered foil or latex balloons and their strings can be found on the ground, stuck in trees, and in water bodies including trout streams, lakes, coastal areas, and other sensitive ecosystems. Finding waste balloons in any wild place doesn’t just take away from the experience of being in these environments – when balloons end up as litter, they can also become a hazard to fish and wildlife or can become microplastic pollution. We can all do our part to make sure our decorations meant to show kindness do not end up harming the environment or our communities. Be part of the solution:

  • If you celebrate with balloons, make sure they are tied down tight, and avoid balloon releases. Many balloons end up in the environment from being released at celebrations and memorials.
  • Dispose of balloons properly in the trash. Balloons do not belong in the recycling bin.
  • Consider alternatives to balloons such as bubbles, bells, paper or fabric garlands, reusable banners, or planting a native tree, shrub, or flowers in remembrance of a loved one.

Want to learn more about balloon litter and other types of plastic pollution? Visit https://balloonsblow.org/ or check out EPA’s Trash Free Waters page. Have you seen littered balloons in the environment? Send us your pictures and stories about where you have found littered balloons to [email protected].

Photo taken by Steven Heerkens, DEC Wildlife Biologist, while doing field work in Herkimer County

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

7 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Humans – such an irresponsible species.

  2. Ed Palen says:

    I second the above suggestions as this has become a real problem. I’ve noticed it first occurring in the back country about 20 years ago and it is getting worse. I bushwack a lot to avoid crowds and I fairly frequently find brightly colored deflated balloons in the middle of nowhere. Just last week I found one near the summit of a small peak above the South Fork of the Boquet River, not too far from Dix Mountain. I’m sure that people don’t intend to cause a problem but all balloons land somewhere and are no different than litter at that point…

  3. rdc says:

    Just as annoying as empty beer cans.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be walking in the woods and see fluorescent pink, orange, lavender, green, etc etc etc from a distance. I don’t care that little Johnny turned ten. Or that Marge and Elmer celebrated their twentieth anniversary. I care even less when I’m carrying back their garbage.

    • Balian the Cat says:

      I would add to the above that, at some point, it became fashionable to express “thoughts and prayers” via a mass release of balloons with, presumably, messages for the heavens. With all due respect to the grievers, the resulting litter might not be the best way to honor their cause.


    Years ago I found a balloon on a lawn here in the ADKs. It was labeled Bank of New Ulm. It took me a while to find that New Ulm was a city in Minnesota. A long way from Raquette Lake. Helped me understand acid rain and pollution from Midwestern coal plants.

  5. Charlie Stehlin says:

    We like to Celebrate! Whether it be 4th of July or whatever the occasion! Sure…. when we’re kids, celebrate this or that holiday, or whatever the occasion may be, and make as much of a racket as possible while we’re at it, and pollute too….but it’s time to grow up and start thinking about others, and other forms of life, as we are not the only species on this planet contrary to what the ego, or God, or Donald Trump might have us believe.

    The 4th of July has got to be one of the worst days to celebrate, what with all of the ruckus, and O’ those poor birds in their treetops at night! It’s a shame that we’re not taught to be a lot more respectful towards the unseen critters. Out of sight out of mind I suppose. Mindlessness! There sure is a heck of a lot of that going around.

    I would wager that a large portion of society is clueless as to the real meaning, or history, of the things they celebrate…..including that largest, and most patriotic, of events….Independence Day. We just have our routines, and I’ll be darned if we cannot get past our conditioned selves no matter how knowledgeable or great we think we are!

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