FORT MYERS, Fla. — What goes up must come down, and releasing balloons can have harmful effects on the environment.
“When they float downwind and come back to the ground, you’ve got a plastic pollutant with a string attached to and it tends to have incredibly bad impacts on wildlife," said Dr. Win Everham, ecology and environmental studies professor at FGCU.
Balloon releases happen all over the world, some big, some small, for a celebration or the loss of someone's life. However, no matter the size environmental studies professor Win Everham at Florida Gulf Coast University says the impact on wildlife is huge.
“So sometimes the wildlife, the birds, the turtles, they ingest the balloons thinking it’s something to eat and it gets stuck in their throat and it gets blocked into their digestive system. That string gets wrapped around them, a bird with a string wrapped around its wing can't fly anymore, a dolphin with a string tight on its fin could lose the fin,” said Everham.
Here in Florida balloon releases are illegal, and the harmful effects to our environment can cause our economy to suffer.
“People want to come here to see wildlife, to see seabirds. People come here to have an experience on the beach, and if the things we are doing, are making a bad experience, you know? No one wants to see hundreds of balloons washing up on the beach, certainly, no one wants to see dead sea turtles or dead birds. So I think that lawmakers understood that a healthy environment is tied to a healthy economy,” said Everham.
Whether you're celebrating an achievement or honoring the life of a lost loved one, Everham says there are multiple ways to do so, without harming the world around you.
“If you live in a place that floats water like this, you could float flowers on the water. You could have a bunch of people waving flags, you could fly kites, you could plant a tree, that's a much more long-lasting honoring of somebody celebrations or somebody loss,” said Everham.