Why balloons are harmful to the ocean
What goes up, must come down…
When cutting down on plastic in your life a good way to start is by reducing the amount of single-use plastic. Single-use plastic is often used while shopping in the supermarket (think plastic bags) and take away food (coffee cups), but the reality is, we rely on plastic in almost every aspect of our lives.
Other occasions, we use plastic for almost unnecessary reasons. Balloons are used commonly at birthday parties, for decoration and releases of balloon bunches often happen in moments of celebration. Letting balloons go and watching them fly high into the sky, they often then disappear from sight and our mind. People often don’t often stop to think about the after effect of their actions, what happens next to those balloons. When they fly away they burst and brake up into smaller pieces, often ending up in the ocean. Beach litter surveys have shown the number of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.
During The Swim, the crew has found balloon fragments during their plastic protocols that they collect and record to help better understand the density of plastic in our oceans.
‘A balloon is a pretty powerful image, every year we release thousands of plastic none biodegradable balloons into the air, they have to end up somewhere and a lot of that time it is into the Ocean where they are often mistaken for food by animals’, said research manager and first mate Tyral Dalitz.
They commonly look like jellyfish when floating in the water, and are mistaken for food by marine life. Balloons are commonly made from synthetic materials and aren’t biodegradable, so they’re extremely dangerous of an animal to ingest. They clog up the animal’s digestive tract, stopping them from digesting food and they die a slow and painful death from starvation. As well as the plastic being harmful, the stings of balloons often cause animals to get tangled, which can strangle and kill marine life.
Worldwide clean up by Ocean Conservancy collected more than 1.2 million balloons over the past 25 years. Last year alone they picked up 93,913 balloon fragments littering our waterways and oceans. To put that into context, that’s enough balloons to lift a great white shark.
Plastic is strong and durable, which makes it an ideal material for many products, however, it’s also it’s downfall. Plastic doesn’t break down; it breaks up into smaller pieces of plastic known as ‘microplastic’. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classify microplastics as less than 5 mm in diameter. This makes the plastic easier to be mistaken for food and ingested by animals. Even ‘ecofriendly’ balloons also take several years to break down, so are still a danger to marine life if they ingest them.
One of the greatest things about balloons is we don’t actually need them. They are an easy item to cut out of your life to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic in your life.
5 Gyre offers advice for going plastic-free at your next party.
Written by By Hannah Altschwager
Land coordinator and communications.
[Day 57-58] In a smog of microplastic
I will keep on swimming even though I reached my goal of 300nm – our mission isn’t over and the perspective I get from under the water is too important to stop. Adam has been a little worried about my low body fat percentage and has done a great job at making sure I have … Continued
[Day 56] Outdoor movie theater in the middle of the Pacific!
We reached the doldrums today. This is an area in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage without any wind. Also, there are no currents shown on any of the maps we regularly get from land in this area. But for the past few days, storms passing south of us and going toward Hawaii have … Continued
[Day 54-55] The big 300
Yesterday was a pretty uneventful day. Yoav shared the dinghy responsibilities with Josh and nothing really stood out. Maybe we are becoming numb to the quantity of plastic we encounter… We had 10 eggs left from the 90 given to us by the Transporter’s chef. I wish we had taken the 180 he originally offered. … Continued
[Day 53] Full sails ahead
The winds shifted back – they were coming from the north today.This morning we arrived on the north side of the anticyclonic eddy. With calm seas, I started my swim with Heather and David on the dinghy. We had planned to end the day with a photo session of the crew in the water with … Continued
[DAY 51-52] The new focus
I started my day yesterday with a phone call with Jared from Nomadica Films, the production company from last year’s expedition. We talked about the differences between this expedition and last year’s and how I was in a different mindset. Last year I focused on my performance a lot and every day I pushed myself … Continued
[Day 50] Float on
As of today, we have been at sea for 50 days and I have swum 265 nautical miles, but we still have about a month before we will see land.We have planned to spend another week in a new location at the core of the garbage patch. After we will start sailing north to the … Continued
[Day 47] Eggs for breakfast!
We started the day with a couple of net tows around The Ocean Cleanup device, and once we were finished we said our goodbyes to the Transporter and TOC and sailed off. We have to retrieve a drifter west of us and we expect to get to the area in about two days.There was a … Continued
[DAY 44] Night swim in the ocean
Last night, I went for a night swim. I put on a second layer of wetsuit on my torso with a hoodie and slide into a dark world. It was surreal, all my usual reference points were distorted. I felt as if I was flying over my swim line, the space between me and the … Continued
[DAY 43] Full Monty
Last night the crew shined a light on the water. They wanted to collect lantern fish. During the process a couple of squids came up to get the fish at the surface. This gave me an idea, what if I swim at night with light shining around me, what would I be able to see? … Continued
[DAY 42] Man made ghost nets
We have settled on a new plan and route after leaving our rendezvous with captain Charles Moore. We have decided to travel about 200 nm west-south-west to get to drifter F. We will still be in the core of the patch. After reaching this new location, we will move north in the direction of the … Continued
[DAY 41] A crab hitchhiking on a turtle
Josh and Adam were up early in the dinghy with the drone and our net was deployed to synchronize our activities with the satellite fight over. Those footage will be used by Nikolai, the scientist working on refining his ocean current model. David and Hannah on the dinghy, spotted a turtle in my first hour … Continued