The balloons have to go but the celebrations can stay!

Balloons symbolise celebrations, partying, joy and sharing… But once they are released into the sky, they end up in the ocean and are damaging to our environment. Many sea turtles, dolphins and birds mistake them for food, and die as a result.

The Government of Monaco, the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco and the Institut Océanographique are coming together to lead the “celebrate without balloons” initiative in order to encourage the public to do their part and to get involved, by making suggestions and giving alternatives which can be just as festive, but much more environmentally-friendly: together, let’s celebrate in a way which makes the sea turtles happy too…

What happens to a balloon when it is released into the sky…

A balloon will float away into the sky, until it deflates or until the pressure in the atmosphere bursts it into several pieces. These pieces then fall back down to earth and into the sea far from the place they were released. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), balloons are in the top 10 of recreational waste found on our coasts. They can travel thousands of kilometres and pollute the most remote and most preserved of places.

…And what consequences do they have on the sea?

Balloons have a negative impact on our environment and pollute streams, lakes and beaches. Releasing a balloon into the air has the same effect as intentionally throwing rubbish onto the ground or into the ocean. When balloons make their way into the water, the shredded and floating pieces can resemble jellyfish or other marine species which marine animals such as sea turtles, fish and dolphins feed on. When these pieces are mistaken for food and ingested, they can get stuck in a sea turtle’s digestive system, which in turn prevents the animal from eating and causes a slow and painful death.

This young loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), just twenty centimetres long, was taken in by the Musée Océanographique, who saved its life by removing a balloon that it had ingested.


Wildlife on dry land can also be the victim of balloons and balloon strongs when the pieces fall to the ground alongside roads, rivers or into trees and bushes. Birds have been found hurt by ribbons wrapped around their beaks or wings and have strangled themselves when they became trapped in pieces of string attached to the branches of trees or electrical lines. Just like the marine animals, they can die if they ingest balloons. Unfortunately, almost half of all marine bird species are likely to ingest waste. We have also discovered waste in their nests and seen them feed this to their young.

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These are “Loose and empty balloons which are not transporting anything (in particular skin balloons and floating lanterns which are not carrying a heavy load, or carrying a light load such as a postcard)”. These balloons are for recreational, leisure or commemorative purposes. They pollute because of the material, the rigid plastic stick or the ribbon or string that some have tied onto them.

Have fun without balloons

Skin balloons are generally made by means of polymerisation and so are not biodegradable. Even though some balloons are claimed to be “100% biodegradable”, it should be noted that the term biodegradable is not controlled by any particular standards or regulations. Also, this breakdown only occurs in special conditions and after a specified period of time.

Even if ballons claim to be “biodegradable”, they are still harmful to the environment and dangerous for a large number of animals. We strongly recommend that you refrain from releasing them into the sky!


There are already some alternatives out there such as natural soap bubbles, paper pompoms, candles, kites or windmills, bunting, banners and much more.
If you absolutely must use balloons, keep them indoors to reduce the risk of them flying away, make sure outdoor balloons are securely tied, avoid using mylar non-biodegradable balloons (coated), and make sure all balloons and accessories (such as clips and ribbons) are disposed of properly.
You can also use your imagination and who knows what creative alternatives you will come up with! Don’t hesitate to tell us about them on the Facebook page for this cause!

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Find out more

Ministry of the Environment website

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