Last week I was working on a local whale watch vessel and noticed a shiny, colorful object floating on the ocean. An exotic marine creature? Not.
It was a mylar foil balloon that had drifted from someone’s Mother’s Day celebration and made its way to the sea. And then I remembered last June when the crew and I removed many “Congratulations, Graduate!” balloons from the water.
Balloons are given to celebrate life events, yet for marine animals, balloons and other plastic trash may mean death. Yes, mylar balloons are shiny and festive, but they often end up in the ocean, where sea turtles, whales and fish make the deadly error of ingesting them, having mistaken them for food. It is heartbreaking to see birds, dolphins and sea lions entangled by the balloons —string and all. And those that don’t directly injure ocean creatures eventually break down into micro plastics that will take hundreds of years to decompose.
Even on land, floating mylar balloons are a hazard, often coming into contact with power lines and causing power outages or fires.
Did you know that California law requires that all mylar balloons be weighted so they can’t take flight? Given the many hazards they pose, I’d like to put forth a challenge to my fellow coastal citizens: Omit mylar and latex balloons from your graduations and other worthy celebrations this year— and every year.
Imagine our new graduates and their families using sustainable decorations that protect our precious coastal waters. Imagine stores refusing to sell mylar balloons. Imagine launching the next generation into a future that solves the plastics problem.
This is my challenge. We can do this!
Cheryl Procaccini, Laguna Beach