During the pandemic, Ben and Josh Marcus found a great place to social distance: the middle of Long Island Sound.
With their high school internships canceled, the Westport brothers — a rising senior and junior respectively, at the Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy in Stamford — spent endless hours on their boat.
They fished, appreciated the beautiful coastline — and discovered an astonishing amount of pollution.
Some of the worst litter was helium balloons. We’ve all seen (and probably bought) them: they look happy, and say everything from “Happy Father’s Day” to “It’s Your Graduation!”
As they fished hundreds of balloons out of the sound, Ben and Josh chronicled their catches on social media.
“When they let go of their balloons, it may be a fun photo op,” Ben says. “But the balloons land in our oceans. They can kill our wildlife.”
It can take 4 years for a latex balloon to decompose — even longer for a Mylar one. In that time they suffocate birds and marine life. They block the digestive tracts of animals that mistake them for food.
Their strings stay in the environment even longer, and can suffocate wildlife too.
Like many states, Connecticut has laws against releasing balloons (punishable by fine). Not many people know that — or know the damage balloons can cause.
The Marcuses started Balloon Free Forever. The objective is to educate residents about the dangers balloons can cause when not disposed of properly. The brothers hope their awareness campaign will have as much success as recent one limiting the use of plastic bags and straws, and Styrofoam products.
Ben and Josh have gotten their family interested in balloon collecting. They urge “06880” readers to do the same.
To help the Marcus brothers clean up local waters, click here. If you don’t have a boat, just head to your favorite shoreline or park.
You’ll be doing your part for the environment. You’ll feel good. You’ll even get a free “Balloon Collector” bumper sticker for your car or boat.
But not, of course, a helium balloon with big letters saying “Congratulations!”
(The Marcuses post photos of their balloon catches on Instagram: @balloonfreeforver. They invite you to share your photos too.)