What happens when a balloon is released?

A bouquet of balloons is released at a celebration. 

Balloons get stuck in trees and birds mistake balloon strings as material to build their nests and often get entangled in them, causing injury or even death.

Balloons fall in lakes and other bodies of water. Marine life ingest or get caught in floating balloon debris. 

Balloon debris often gets eaten by livestock.

Balloons get caught in power lines and cause outages.

Balloons are disgusting pieces of debris. This is another celebration, months later, which is littered by the balloon pieces from prior celebrations.

How do balloons affect ... ?

Marine Life:

  • Marine life mistake balloon pieces as food
  • They can choke on the balloon pieces
  • Even if they don’t choke, balloon debris clogs their digestive tract and can lead to serious injury and even death for the animal
Photo: Lance Ferris (Australian Seabird Rescue)


  • Balloon debris is the number 1 killer for seabirds: they are 32 times  more likely to kill seabirds than hard plastics (according to a study done by the University of Tasmania – Roman 2019)
  • Mistake balloon pieces as material to build their nests
  • Can get strangled by balloon strings that end up in trees

Photo: Pacific Beach Coalition

The Environment:

  •  18,000 pieces of balloon debris were found in the Great Lakes between 2016 and 2018 (according to Alliance for the Great Lakes)
  • Mylar and latex, what most balloons are made out of, are not biodegradable and pollute our environment 

Map Data Source: Alliance for the Great Lakes

The Economy:

  • 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes each year and this costs about $500 million annually for coastal communities to clean up (Crain’s Business)
  • Pollution affects the tourism and outdoor recreation industries

Our Lifestyle:

  • Over 1,000 power outages each year are caused by balloon debris in California
  • In May of 2021, in Bay City, Michigan, a power outage affecting approximately 3,000 customers was caused by a bouquet of mylar balloons
  • From 1900 to 1950, no microplastics were detected in any fish; but, in 2018, yellow perch, for example, was found to have 8 pieces per fish on average (Ecological Society of America study). These plastics end up in our water, in our fish, and in our bodies. Long term effects of these harmful plastics are yet unknown.
  • Infants’ bodies contain almost 15 times the amount of microplastics as typically found in adults (New York University School of Medicine study)

Photo: Bay Electric Light and Power (Bay City power outage caused by balloons.)