Balloon Free Forever!

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!”

Ben Marcus …

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.

… and Josh, with balloons they’ve fished from the sound.

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.)

A small part of the large haul.

14 responses to “Balloon Free Forever!

  1. Thank you for making us aware of this problem Ben and Josh!

  2. I love this mission! I live by the water and my six year old daughter and I, are constantly picking up trash (and balloons) along the shoreline. We all need to raise awareness the danger of these contaminates.

  3. Roberta Tager

    Another “good job.”😊

    Sent from my iPhone Bobbi


  4. Rindy Higgins

    Good goin’, Josh and Ben. Maybe create a note to secure balloons and don’t do a balloon release to be given to purchasers, such as at Party Harry and Party City.

  5. Linda Montecalvo

    Thanks Ben & Josh for illustrating the case against the purchase of balloons and thanks Dan for posting this. I sometimes shop at a market in Darien and over time became astounded at the obsession that people in Darien have with the purchase of balloons for everything. The High School in particular uses them almost daily for every little thing including meetings. I just don’t get it!!!

  6. Herbert van Wijngaarden

    Well done Ben and Josh ! We do a lot of boating and pick up balloons and other plastic garbage when we see it float. We return with plastics almost every trip. The amount of balloons floating in the Long Island Sound is astonishing.
    Keep up the good work !

  7. Tony McDowell

    Good work Josh and Ben! At Earthplace, we have a balloon ban in place for all events, but they still float in and get stuck in the trees! We support your efforts to raise awareness accross the land and seas.

  8. Bill Strittmatter

    These balloons really should be banned. I suspect there are more of these floating around in LI Sound than plastic straws before they were banned.

  9. Thank you for this! Wow, live and learn. And I guess it’s not just Mylar that’s the problem.

  10. Christine Rock Freeman

    THANK YOU Ben, Josh and Parents! You are role models for All of us bringing home the importance that we all have a role to play in saving our environment. Perhaps some other smart and creative people will invent a device to deflate and dispose of the different kinds of balloons. Love seeing balloons or streamers flying, securely tied down of course, in celebration of an event. Let all voices be heard.

  11. As a balloon professional I will not supply any client with balloons for any form of release. I have never supplied foil balloons without a weight. We take our responsibility seriously, unfortunately some people don’t and refuse to listen to our warnings. I appreciate your efforts.

  12. I agree there should be a helium balloon ban. I can’t tell you how many balloons we see while crossing the LI Sound on a regular basis.

  13. There’s a CT law that was put in place back in 1978 1979 to NOT release multiple balloons into the air at once.
    What happened to that law?
    I know random balloons get loose from time to time. I guess the random loose ones all float over and deflate into Long Island Sound.
    I’ve seen an uptick of stores selling and people buying balloons in the last 5 years.

  14. Christine Rock Freeman

    I could not agree more. Everyone should be responsible for their property and maintain their grounds responsibly. If you display signs of celebration, like tying balloons to your mailbox post, please take responsibility for the balloons after the celebration by piercing them with a sharp object and throwing the remaining material in an appropriate container. Of course, you should take the necessary step in the first instance by securely tying down the balloons being displayed. As with all consumables, please appropriately discard them after their use, otherwise the debris ends up in our oceans and lakes, disturbs the life cycle of our wildlife, and ruins the beauty of our parks and living areas.