What goes up, must come down

Prior to working at Loch Leven NNR I was based across the Stirling NNRs – three different reserves spread across central Scotland. During my first week, we found a balloon. Fast forward to a year later, with the combined effort of myself and two other placement staff, we published a blog on how many balloons we found during that year. It was a grim picture, with a total of 46 – just under one a week!

Upon joining the Loch Leven team, it wasn’t long before I started encountering the same issue. And so, another year on, here is a compilation of all the balloons we have found across the reserve since last October. Complete with the dissapproving faces of our team and volunteers of course!

A grand total of 12 ballons, averaging one per month. Given that Loch Leven is about the same size as Flanders Moss, and both are in similarly built up areas, their total of 24 is what I will compare our count to. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that we have half that which were found on Flanders. Perhaps there is greater awareness of the issues balloons cause and fewer people are buying them? Or perhaps the strong winds this year have simply caused them to blow out to sea. I’d be interested to see how our other reserves fair after a year of collecting balloons, as well as looking at the bigger picture to see which items are littered most frequently.

Birthdays seemed to be the favourite way to provide our local wildlife with a potential choking hazard. We found four different large ‘number’ balloons, a plastic “birthday boy” banner and a leopard print adorned piece. We also had a “Feliz Navidad” and “Superstar Mum”. Not particularly superstar to have littered on a national nature reserve though…

Of course we pick up plenty of other forms of litter on the reserve much more frequently, and much of this I consider to be just as unecessary. But balloons really are one to make my eyes roll because they are just so frivolous. There are so many other ways to celebrate and commemorate various life events than by filling a piece of plastic with air, followed by what I can only hope were accidental releases (and even those which do end up in a bin will now be on the planet literally for forever).

Is the extra decor really worth the planet? Next time you celebrate a birthday, a wedding, or even mourn the passing of a loved one, consider the wider impact of your choices. The Ballons Blow campaign provides ideas for sustainable and reusable alternatives to balloons and the Marine Conservation Society have a list of councils that have committed to a balloon/latern release ban in local policy.

Putting rubbish in a bin and leaving no trace are easy and simple words to live by – not just on our reserve but everywhere. What is also important is that we, collectively, try to take greater steps to protect and care for our local spaces and the wider world – for our own sake just as much as for wildlife.

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1 Response to What goes up, must come down

  1. Anne says:

    I wish you could hear me clapping!

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