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Balloon drops fall out of favor in NYE parties

January 06, 2019 - Sunday 4:01 PM by Chito Castro, Leah Castro

DROP DEAD. Balloon drops are a popular way to celebrate, but at what cost? GRAPHIC BY KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS

Filipinos consider welcoming the new year one of the most anticipated events held annually. It’s a time when we get to re-celebrate the triumphs of the past year or bid goodbye to its heartaches. For many of us, a new year signifies a new beginning, a new hope.

Days before 2018 came to a close, several econetizens rallied behind the hashtag #DropBalloonDrop to ask business establishments holding huge New Year’s Eve parties to cancel planned balloon releases. It has been a tradition for a number of big hotels and resorts to hold balloon drops to make their NYE parties more festive.

However, with our planet on crisis due to massive pollution, we need to put a stop to unsustainable, wasteful, and environmentally harmful activities. These include balloon drops/releases, sky lantern releases, and even excessive fireworks displays.

Balloon releases threaten the environment

When released, balloons do not bring wishes, prayers, or messages to dead loved ones to the heavens. Gravity tells us that what goes up must come down, and that includes helium-filled balloons. When they lose their lift, these balloons drop back to the ground, to trees, or to the oceans. These can be mistaken for food by birds, fish, and other living creatures, which may lead to their death.

Here’s the reality: Balloon releases, sky lanterns, and fireworks may look nice for a few minutes. What happens after we no longer see them is not really nice.

Balloon drop: Is it more eco-friendly?

A balloon drop may sound like a better option because the threat of deflated balloons to the environment is reduced. Usually done indoors, this activity involves balloons suspended above the party venue and then released to the happy crowd below.
However, balloons are seldom reused or recycled. They often just go to the landfills, adding to the ever-growing problem of pollution and solid waste.

Waste reduction is the primary tier of the waste management hierarchy, before reusing or recycling. In other words, the top priority is minimizing the amount of solid wastes we generate. We reuse or recycle what we can’t reduce.

With several companies, schools, barangays and even cities pushing for zero waste and banning single-use plastics, we cannot just go around producing more waste in the name of fun and partying.

NATURE FRIENDLY. In some countries, biodegradable balloons are used in celebrations. Brazil’s Chamber of Commerce, for example, released thousands of such balloons to celebrate New Year in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP

Cove Manila NYE backlash

Over 70,000 signatures were gathered in support of an online campaign posted on Bataris to stop Cove Manila’s world record attempt to drop 130,000 balloons on New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile, thousands of econetizens helped spread the word on social media and to ask other companies to drop their respective balloon events as well.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also released official statements discouraging balloon drops and other unsustainable practices.

The campaign took a win when a number of establishments aside from Cove Manila heeded the call and voluntarily cancelled their balloon events, including Davao Bamboo Sanctuary and Ecological Park in Davao City, Venue 88 in General Santos City, and The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.

No more balloon drops for future NYE parties?
Despite the strong public outcry, several other companies turned a deaf ear and proceeded with their NYE balloon drops and releases. We really cannot expect to change the world in one blink of an eye, can we?

The road to a sustainable future may have several humps and bumps, but it’s a journey that will prove to be worth all the hassle. Let’s savor one win at a time and continue to hope for the rise of more sustainable NYE party alternatives.