99 Dead Balloons Float By

December 30, 2017

The Problem with Balloons

We have a problem: Balloons Blow and we need to stop letting them go.  What goes up must come down. I got together with children’s author Ellie Jackson to see if we could help educate as to the dangers of releasing helium balloons for animals on land and sea. Ellie had written a great book and so I thought I’d better make a balloon waste dress, you know how it is…



After Blue Planet 2 it feels like the momentum is changing and now it isn’t about ‘is there a problem’ with marine waste but rather what can we do about it. The phrase “Balloons Blow Don’t let them go” comes from two ideas, firstly that balloons blow on the wind and can travel thousands of miles and secondly that balloons blow ie pop and fall back down to Earth, notably to the sea. Balloon waste is such a problem because of both the balloon itself and the ribbon and tags attached.

Foil Balloons: these are basically plastic bags with a foil coating, the foil gradually comes off into the sea and then there is a shape that looks like an enormous clear jellyfish.

Rubbery balloons (both latex biodegradable types and the other type): these break down into lots of strands which closely resemble the tentacles of jellyfish or squid/octopus.

Marine animals, in particular turtles, dolphins and seabirds ingest these waste balloons. On land, farm animals can also fall prey to this dangerous waste. They can then block the respiratory or digestive tracts. Any animal can get caught up in the twisted plastic ribbons.

The Helium issue

Helium is a finite natural resource and it is running out. Doctors organisations have called to ban the sale of helium balloons altogether as helium is such an important element. In some parts of the World MRI scans had to be stopped due to a lack of helium. Helium is also used in incubators and has lots of scientific uses from space exploration to chromatography.

About the Project

The amazing 2 minute beach clean community sent me balloon waste after a shout out on Instagram. With these balloons all in different states of degradation it become all too obvious the danger they then posed. The resemblance to marine life was startling. I then used just organic cotton thread to sew them together and weave them into a dress and a cape. I hope to illustrate with these garments how these balloons end up when they come down and remove some of the mystique surrounding them.

Ellie then organised for the local school children (Looe Primary) to hold up 99 dead balloons too so that we can see how that now looks. It is a very flat and dull sight. A real impression that the (balloon) party is over. Children are keen ecowarriors in their own rights and it seems fitting to let them have a voice this way. It is after all the next generation of humans and animals who are going to pay the highest price if we don’t turn this thing around.

What can you do about Balloon Waste?

Let your friends and family know that you are not going to ever release a balloon again, and why.

Do a 2 minute beachclean

You can give Ellie’s book “Marli’s Tangled Tale” to a child you know.

If you spot that a balloon release is about to happen send them the printable information from the RSPCA so that they understand the problem or guide them to look at Balloons Blow

Alternatives if you are trying to avoid balloon waste: For remembrance try petals or leaves thrown into the water, kites flown in the sky and used over and over again, planting a remembrance garden. For parties consider bunting or flags, or blowing bubbles.

Please note paper lanterns are a fire and wildlife risk and are not a good alternative.

The Team

Balloon Dress and Cape: Linda Thomas Eco Design

Models: Ellie Jackson and her daughter from Wild Tribe Heroes

Photography: Symages Photography

Collection of Balloons: 2 minute beachclean and their Instagram followers (@zedster57, @drdross_the_jambo, @harperandthehound, @NationalTrustRanger, @Glittersocks16, @Teri.browning, @hen_ysgol, @ceejaybythebeach)

Eco Hair by sleeping in old fashioned rags and held in place with Oway UK

Publicity Support Keep Britain Tidy