In 2016 Randall Krause from Omaha sued the University of Nebraska, stating that the university was routinely conducting a mass littering exercise. The Nebraska Athletic Department release hundreds of red balloons into the air whenever the Cornhuskers football team score their first points in each home game.
Krause argued that sending the balloons adrift and effectively scattering pieces of latex and ribbon, with no plan to recover them amounted to a violation of federal laws governing the disposal of solid or hazardous waste.
At the time Krause stated "Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them. In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or hurt their feet and hands".
Unfortunately the case was dismissed by a federal judge.
A balloon release is not a sustainable activity
Krause is not the only person to actively work to get this out-dated practice banned. An environmental lobbyist Danielle Vosburgh has also taken on the University. Vosburgh is the co-founder of 'Balloons Blow'. The non-profit organisation booked a billboard on Highway 2 to tell Nebraska fans to "Stop Littering, End The balloon Release!"
Biodegradable litter is still litter
In recent days the students at the University of Nebraska have been given the opportunity to vote on two issues. Whether to ban plastic bags from campus, and secondly to stop these mass balloon releases. The students have now decided that plastic bags are bad and balloon releases are good. In other words plastic bags on campus are banned, whilst mass balloon releases can merrily continue, because "it's a beautiful experience" stated Kurt Goetzinger, a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln student.
Plastic bags are bad. Balloon releases are good
The vote took plays just a couple of days after a peer-reviewed study was published in the journal 'Scientific Reports'.
1,7000 dead seabirds were surveyed. It was found that more than a quarter of the deaths were linked to eating plastic, with 4 in 10 caused by soft debris, such as balloons. Researchers reported that if a seabird swallows a balloon, it's 32 times more likely to die than if it had gulped down a piece of hard plastic.
The deadliest ocean garbage for seabirds is balloons. Livescience.com, March 2019
"We haven’t discontinued our balloon tradition, but we recognize the concerns raised about our environment and our birds, fish and animal friends. We too are concerned with their safety. For that reason, every balloon released in Memorial Stadium is 100 percent natural latex biodegradable, as purchased from Midwest Balloon in Omaha. In addition, we do not use plastic tabs to tie off the balloons and use 100 percent cotton strings". University of Nebraska
It's time the Nebraska Athletic Department started adulting, realised their social responsibility and banned balloon releases
Birds will eat litter becuase they think it is food. Renate Hottmann-Schaefer filmed a classic example of this in recent days. She watched a juvenile Grey Butcherbird feeding on a red balloon.
"At one stage it had dropped the balloon and I tried to chase it away but it quickly picked up the balloon before it took off".
If it does go away, will I miss the balloons? Absolutely. It's just something magical. Kurt Goetzinger, a former student
Just what is so magical about watching wild and marine life starving or choking to death for a mere 25 second spectacle?!