Reducing Balloon Litter Through Education and Outreach with the Joyful Send-off Campaign

Deflated balloons on a beach.

The Coastal States Stewardship Foundation, on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, will reduce the intentional release of balloons at celebratory, memorial and other events through the implementation of the Joyful Send-off community based social marketing campaign.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: August 2018- July 2022

Who is involved?
The Coastal States Stewardship Foundation on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) is working to reduce the intentional release of balloons throughout the Mid-Atlantic region (including the coastal states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). Beach monitoring and cleanups, focus groups, as well as community-based social marketing research will occur throughout the region. The grantee is also partnering with four aquariums across the region as outreach platforms for their messaging campaign. Virginia partners will continue to implement the social marketing strategies that they developed in 2015-2017 while broadening the geographic scope to the entire Mid-Atlantic Region. Additionally, balloon debris monitoring along Virginia’s Eastern Shore barrier islands will continue and be funded through the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program.

What is the project and why is it important?
Balloons are unique among all the man-made litter and debris found in the ocean and on land, in that balloons and their attachments (e.g. plastic ribbons, plastic valves and plastic disk) are a form of litter that people purchase often with the intent to release them on purpose into the environment. In a recent report by Wilcox, et al. (2016), when marine debris experts were asked to estimate which common litter items posed the greatest entanglement and ingestion risk to seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals, balloons were ranked third after fishing gear and plastic bags/utensils.

The Joyful Send-off campaign strategy is informed by research funded by a previous NOAA MDP prevention grant that assessed the knowledge, attitudes and behavior surrounding balloon releases in Virginia. The Joyful Send-off Strategy currently focuses on connecting with mid-Atlantic residents  influencing the behaviors of those who may be considering balloon releases. By engaging with local aquariums as partners, and increasing their knowledge of the impacts of balloon debris and alternatives to balloon releases, this project can make a significant impact across all five states. If interested to learn more about this regional activity, please visit the website that was funded by NOAA Office of Coastal Management.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.