Why we need to change our mindset about balloons and sky lanterns

December 31, 2018 - 4:34 PM
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Balloon Interaksyon
Balloons may be cute and whimsical, but they pose dangers to the environment. (Pixabay)

The balloon-drop celebration plans of Cove Manila and Davao Bamboo Sanctuary and Ecological Park for New Year’s Eve were canceled after being criticized by environmental advocates and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Cove Manila planned to break the Guinness World Record for the largest balloon drop by releasing 130,000 balloons at midnight of December 31.

We're about to make history and celebrate NYE2019 with free-flowing drinks! All ticket holders can enjoy the open bar…

Posted by Cove Manila on Thursday, December 27, 2018

On December 30, the management of Okada Manila, announced on Facebook that it “voluntarily” canceled the event “as a sign of respect” to DENR after receiving the government agency’s letter ordering a stop to it.

As part of its New Year’s Eve festivities, Okada Manila has planned to hold a record-breaking Balloon Dropping event at…

Posted by Cove Manila on Sunday, December 30, 2018

Similarly, the sanctuary park in Davao City also posted about their event where they will release balloons as part of their New Year festivities.

🎉 Celebrate New Year's Eve with us! 🎉

Posted by Davao Bamboo Sanctuary and Ecological Park on Sunday, December 30, 2018

After earning the ire of many environmental advocates online, the event organizers scrapped that portion of the park’s program.

This is our public advisory for our NYE event 2018We do apologize for the unease this has caused many of us. It is a…

Posted by Davao Bamboo Sanctuary and Ecological Park on Saturday, December 29, 2018

Balloons and the environment

Balloon and sky lanterns pose many risks to the environment.

In the United States, there are moves to stop the practice of releasing balloons to the air as part of the campaign to reduce pollution.

While balloons are not one of the top ten types of debris found on coastal cleanups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed that balloons can be deadly to marine animals when deflated ones fall on ocean and sea waters.

There are two types of decorative balloons—mylar and latex balloons. A mylar or foil balloon is made from metallic materials thus making it dangerous near electric posts. A latex balloon, meanwhile, is the most common type and is made from a type of rubber.

Some people argue that biodegradable latex balloons are safe to the environment because they easily decompose.

Event organizers of the Cove Manila earlier told the public that their balloons are also supposedly made of “biodegradable” latex materials and that they do not intend to harm the environment.

Hello Everyone, Thank you for letting us know of your concerns. These are legitimate issues. But rest assured that the…

Posted by Cove Manila on Saturday, December 29, 2018

However, there are studies that showed how latex itself is a choking hazard to both humans and animals.

Latex balloons does not decompose or degrade fast enough to prevent animals from ingesting or getting hurt by the debris or the litter, an article from Wageningen University in Netherlands stated.

“Animals mistake remains from balloons for food, which may cause blockage of stomach and intestines and may lead to starvation,” Dr. Jan Andries van Franeker, marine biologist, wrote.

The Balloon Council, an organization that supervises the balloon industry in the world, also joined in the advocacy to stop the release of balloons outdoors in a campaign called “Smart Balloon Practices.”

“We stand with communities by encouraging that balloons be weighted, not released outdoors and disposed of properly when broken or deflated,” it said.

What Philippine environmental groups are saying

Environmental groups in the Philippines have issued statements against companies having balloon drops in their New Year celebrations.

EcoWaste Coalition warned that balloons will add up to the more than 40,000 tons of waste the country produces per day.

“If our wish cannot be granted, we call upon your company to do what is necessary to ensure that none of the spent balloons will be disposed of in a manner that will add to our country’s waste and pollution woes,” it said.

Greenpeace Philippines also made an online petition to stop the world record attempt of the Cove Manila.

The Cove Manila previously claimed that a representative of the Guinness World Records was slated to witness it.

However, according to the website of the award-giving body, it will no longer monitor or assess potential records that are detrimental to the environmental such as “largest release of party balloons, sky lanterns, etc.”