28 August 2012

What about balloons?

Laura Maggs

While your small fry is sure to enjoy a special Two Oceans Aquarium birthday bash and you’re sure to enjoy a neat house to return home to, our party décor may seem a little different at first glance. Why? Our birthday party packages don’t include balloons – but it’s certainly not because we’re party poopers.

Balloons may seem innocent enough, but the materials they are made from can seriously harm marine life.

“Plastic in general isn’t good for the environment,” explains Two Oceans Aquarium Assistant Communications and Sustainability Manager Renee Leeuwner. “Most balloons are not biodegradable. Even the biodegradable ones take a while to disintegrate – leaving enough time for them to do damage.

“Balloons, much like plastic bags, can end up in the ocean, where animals ingest them and suffer fatal injury as a result. The small rings at the end of balloons can also become caught around the necks of animals and cause harm.”

Adds Two Oceans Aquarium Communications and Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart: “At the Aquarium, we don’t opt for biodegradable balloons either – the problem is that they take time to biodegrade and animals can still ingest them and suffer as a result!”

The footprint of balloons

Where will these balloons end up? Most likely in the sea. Photo courtesy Gerg1967

Two Oceans Aquarium Head of Education Russell Stevens elaborates. “Balloons are used for a very brief time,” he says. “When using up resources, we need to ensure that use of materials is done in a sustainable way, not once-off and quick usage.

“Furthermore, Many balloons are filled with a gas that causes them to float up into the air. In Cape Town that means that the balloon is going to one destination: the sea. The gas escapes and the balloon eventually drops down. 

“Many dissections of dead sea animals have resulted in the discovery of balloons blocking digestive systems; this blocking is the cause of the death. The chart below illustrates the number of balloons found on a 1.6km stretch of beach. The graph [below] illustrates that the number of balloons found is increasing.

“This poor turtle was found dead,” continues Russell. “After doing an autopsy it was found that the turtle had died from ingesting a blue balloon. It is likely that the balloon was mistaken for a jellyfish.”

Above all else, the Aquarium is committed to environmentally friendly practices and educating its visitors. Protecting the planet, our incredible oceans and the creatures that inhabit them, is first and foremost in our minds – so you can be sure your child’s birthday party won’t only be fun, memorable and exciting, but approved by Mother Earth as well!

 Creative alternatives

Just remember, a balloon-free party need not be dull. We’ll organise exciting – and eco-friendly – themed décor to provide that festive touch. Your child can also look forward to guided tours of the Aquarium, tasty party snacks, entertainment and lots more. We’ll take care of all the details so that all you have to do is show up and enjoy your celebration with us!

We’d love to hear your ideas for creative balloon substitutes… If you would like to make a suggestion, please share your thoughts with us below.

Stay in touch: For daily Aquarium updates, follow us on Twitter (@2OceansAquarium) and become a fan on Facebook.

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