Every year our primary school gives the Year 6s a bit of a send off. Usually the last part of this is a bubble extravaganza on the school field. One year it also involved a balloon release. I thought that they had stopped doing this, but I was dismayed this year to see balloons coming out with the Year 6 children.
It might seem like being a bit of a killjoy to say it shouldn’t happen, but I think it is something that should be stopped. All balloons return to earth as litter, so by sending off a balloon you are doing the same thing as deliberately dropping a crisp packet – that isn’t a very good thing to encourage children to do. Even biodegradable balloons take several years to decompose and they could easily kill an animal before that. Sadly many animals see parts of burst balloons as tasty food and that can be a mistake that can kill them. To be honest if a balloon release kills just one animal, it isn’t worth doing and it isn’t the way to look back fondly on your school career.
Another problem with balloon releases is the use of helium. Helium is a finite resource and has important scientific and medical uses, but at the rate we are using it, it could be all gone within a generation. That isn’t a good legacy either is it?
It really saddened me to see that children were being encouraged to release the balloons or being given them at parties and so on. We don’t buy balloons ourselves, although we do sometimes use air-filled balloons, but we always dispose of them safely. I wouldn’t feel happy buying a helium filled balloon and I’m amazed how many people do it routinely.