Join MARCO in the Prevent Balloon Litter Campaign
Last May, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program and its partners Clean Virginia Waterways and Eco Maniac Company launched a new website to convey the impacts of balloon litter, and the steps everyone can take to prevent it. The mission of PreventBalloonLitter.org is simple. Prevent Balloon Litter. Everywhere.
Researchers have identified balloon litter as one of the five deadliest types of debris for marine wildlife. Balloons are unique among all the man-made litter because helium-filled balloons (and their attachments including plastic valves, disks and ribbons) are a form of litter often purchased specifically for release into the environment.
In lieu of balloon releases, PreventBalloonLitter.org offers inspirational litter-free ideas to Celebrate, Remember and Honor the important people and moments in our lives, including:
- Joyful picture-perfect ideas for celebratory events.
- Uplifting ideas for memorials for loved-ones, especially in the wake of COVID19.
- Expressive ways to come together as a community to say thank you to those who have made an impact in our communities.
Partners endorsing and sharing the website to-date include U.S. based entities like MARCO and NOAA, as well as international organizations like an ecological education and research field station in Mexico; a company that leads cleanups in South Africa; and, a South Korean nonprofit that aims to reduce marine debris in East Asia and the Pacific.
Non-profit agencies or organizations that would like to be listed as a partner should contact Virginia Witmer, Virginia CZM Program, at Virginia.Witmer@deq.virginia.gov and Katie Register, Clean Virginia Waterways, email@example.com.
The positive messaging approach of the website is an outcome of extensive public research conducted to inform a Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) campaign in Virginia – Joyful Send-off, launched in Virginia in 2017 with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) and expanded into the region by MARCO with an MDP grant in 2018 . Through this grant, MARCO and its project partners are working to decrease intentional balloon releases and litter throughout the region using CBSM principles. One of the goals of the Mid-Atlantic partners is to design a campaign strategy that is transferable to other regions in the US and that can be shared, and possibly implemented, in other countries.
By Virginia Witmer, Outreach Coordinator, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program; Katie Register, Executive Director, Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University; and Laura McKay, Program Manager, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program. Submitted to the NOAA Marine Debris Program, November 2017
After extensive pre-campaign research in Virginia between 2015 – 2017 to better understand who plans balloon release events – and, most importantly, why – the Virginia CZM Program and Clean Virginia Waterways launched a new social marketing campaign, Joyful Send-off.
This study documents balloons as the most abundant type of waste on five remote beaches surveyed between 2013 and 2017. More than 11,400 balloons, balloon pieces and attachments were found on Virginia’s most remote beaches. Balloon litter was the #1 most frequently found type of marine debris on these beaches. Balloons and their attached plastic clips and ribbons made up 40 percent of all debris recorded, followed by plastic bottles and fishing gear. The amount of balloon litter varied from 25 items per mile on Cedar Island in Accomack County, to more than 272 items per mile at Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge in Northampton County.
Credit: Christina Trapani