I recently visited Portland to attend a concert at the State Theatre and was appalled to see the hundreds of balloons concertgoers carelessly threw on the ground for blocks around the venue. Hundreds of balloons per concert could easily add up to tens of thousands per year. These balloons likely wash down the storm drains past the Gulf of Maine Research Institute into the sea where they kill birds, turtles and other sea life. Published scientific articles document balloons are the highest-risk plastic debris item for mortality in sea birds and the preferred plastic for ingestion by sea turtles.

It seems unlikely those who huff nitrous oxide in the streets and parks of Portland will read this, or even care. So if it’s going to change, it will take the same kind of efforts of concerned citizens required to reduce plastic grocery bag waste. If the city is going to allow this activity, perhaps receptacles with photos of the marine life tragedies due to balloons could persuade some to make the effort to dispose of them properly. Maybe a sharps disposal box could be attached to help with that issue as well. An environmental organization could sponsor a balloon buy-back program.

An awareness campaign could include displays in venue lobbies.

Alan Majka

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