NEW JERSEY (CBS) — A tragic event is often followed by a story about a community holding a balloon release to pay tribute to those lost. But wildlife experts and environmental advocates warn that the same act that’s meant to honor a life cut short can lead to other untimely deaths.

It can be a lovely sight — colorful helium balloons trailing long ribbons, floating up and away, carrying good wishes to the heavens. But Beth Kwart, Chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s South Jersey Chapter, says one person’s tribute is another’s trash.

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“Releasing a balloon into the air is the same as dropping a deflated balloon on the ground,” she said. “It’s just another way that you’re littering.”

Her group’s behind bans on intentional helium balloon releases in Longport, Margate, Ventnor and Atlantic City.

“We’re not trying to target little kids who accidentally let go of a balloon,” said Kwart.

The intent is to raise awareness that deflated balloons are not biodegradable.

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The Marine Mammal Stranding Center’s Bob Schoelkopf says to dolphins, whales, and even sea turtles, look at these balloons like dinner.

“It looks like jellyfish floating on the surface. If something’s in the ocean where they live all their lives, and they feed in the ocean, and they see something that may be appetizing, they’ll try to eat it,” he said. “And the balloons don’t break down inside the animals, and they just accumulate.”

And that’s a death sentence.

Kwart suggests, rather than releasing balloons, to truly honor someone, plant a tree — or even make a charitable donation in their memory.

via 215Today.

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