Helium Balloons

Helium balloons on display at Shaw’s in Falmouth.

Helium balloons on display at Shaw’s in Falmouth.

The town’s environmental oversight committee is proposing bylaws that would ban plastic straws and polystyrene for the October Town Meeting warrant.

Now it has its sights set ahead to next spring and considering another bylaw that would ban helium and other plastic balloons.

Kudos to the committee members: it’s time to take action on plastics and latex that are seriously polluting the oceans.

If Mashpee bans plastics, joining Falmouth, which already has a ban on plastic grocery bags and polystyrene cups, the accomplishment will not be felt around the globe. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Chris Neill, in a column in the Enterprise in May, wrote of the toll that plastics take on wildlife. Sea turtles mistake floating balloons for algae or jellyfish. Whales are more vulnerable to plastics; that was graphically brought home this past winter and spring when media reported that thousands of pounds of plastic were found in dead whales’ stomachs.

Again, banning plastics on the Cape alone won’t put much of a dent in the problem. In his May column, Dr. Neill noted that huge numbers of balloons are released at events such as the Indianapolis 500 and NCAA football games. More balloons are probably released at one of those events than over a number of years in Mashpee.

But it’s not the numbers of balloons that count; it’s the message and the awareness that a balloon ban bylaw would send.

Falmouth and other towns on the Cape would do well to join in the initiative to ban helium balloons.

While boating in Vineyard Sound last month, our publisher picked up several balloons that had lost their lift. One of them had printed on it “Congratulations, Class of 2019.”

We wonder what the Class of 2019 will think, if mankind doesn’t get a grip on the tons of balloons and plastics that are released into the ocean.

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