Balloon Litter Research Study
Data collected by volunteers during this study will help scientists better understand the sources and impacts of this type of litter.
Currently, this study is accepting data about balloon litter found only in Virginia.
2. Download a Data Card, fill it in and mail, email, or fax it to Clean Virginia Waterways.
By email: email@example.com
By fax: 434-395-2978
By mail: Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, 201 High Street, Farmville, VA 23909
Here are some of the attachments you might find on balloons:
Some balloons you find may have attachments, including plastic disks or clips that are used to tie-off the balloons. Some balloons may have plastic valves used to quickly fill balloons with helium or compressed air. Ribbons made of plastic, metalized plastic ("Mylar") or cotton may also be attached. Please describe all attachments when you send in your Data Cards.
Citizen scientists of all ages will help researchers answer questions including:
Do helium-filled balloons rise high into the sky and shatter into tiny pieces?
What percentage of found balloons have attachments, and what are the attachments made of?
What percentage of found balloons are made of latex, and what percentage are made of metalized nylon, or foil materials (sometimes called "Mylar" balloons)?
Do the colors of found balloons change with the seasons?
Are balloons more likely to be found in one type of environment than another?
Here is a collection of latex balloons (orange, purple, pink) along with nylon balloons, some of which have lost their metallic coatings.
Latex balloons (sometimes called "rubber balloons") are the type of balloon that expand in size as they are filled with air or helium. They are less expensive than foil balloons.
Foil balloons are made of "metalized" nylon film, and are often called "Mylar balloons." Mylar is trademarked by Dupont Tejjin Films and is made of resin Polyethylene Terephiate (PET), a thin polyester plastic. The metalic paint used on these balloons flake off with time, leaving what looks like plastic "bags" in the shape of a balloon.
This research project is sponsored by Clean Virginia Waterways and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.
Please contact us if you would like to support this research.
Aquatic litter and debris are any manufactured or processed solid waste that enters the aquatic environment from any source. In short, it is our misplaced waste and trash. It is a highly pervasive and visible form of pollution that has harmful impacts on wildlife and human health.
Aquatic ecosystems—streams, rivers, wetlands, and estuaries—are under considerable pressure from human activities, including incorrect disposal of trash. While the world's oceans are vast, they do not have an infinite ability to safely absorb our wastes. Preserving and restoring the quality of freshwater and marine environments requires that we understand how much trash we create, what we do with that trash, and how we can prevent it from entering our waterways.
Impacts on Aquatic Habitat
Habitat destruction or harm is caused when submerged debris (for example, a piece of plastic sheeting) covers seagrass beds, or smothers bottom-dwelling species. Some debris can also cause physical damage.
Impacts on Water Quality
Debris can also affect the water quality by adding chemicals to the water. Construction waste illegally dumped in a stream can include buckets that once held paints, solvents, and other chemicals. Cigarette butts and some other littered items contain toxic chemicals that leach into the water.
Clean Virginia Waterways, together with BoatU.S. Foundation, created this sign that reminds boaters and anglers to "Bring it Back." The signs are laminated for outdoor use. They measure 8" x 8" and have English on one side, and Spanish on the other.
If you know of a marina or boat dock in Virginia that could use a sign, please contact CVW at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 434-395-2602.
Free while supplies last.
About Litter and Debris:
Cigarette Butt Litter—A Special Problem
Article about Aquatic Litter and Debris (written by CVW for school teachers and others)
What Volunteers Found in Virginia's Waterways--Data from past International Coastal Cleanups
Teacher Professional Development
Course for Middle School Teachers: Summer of 2013
SOLstice: Summer of Learning – Science Teachers Investigating the Chesapeake Environment. This unique and exciting Chesapeake Bay Academy will bring together university faculty, practicing middle-school teachers, and pre-service middleschool science teachers to work collaboratively as “teacher-researchers.” Taught by Longwood University faculty in conjunction with Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University's Hull Springs Farm and other partners.
Clean Virginia Waterways' other spring and summer workshops for teachers are now being planned. Please send us an email (email@example.com) if you are interested in being notified!
Virginia's Water Resources—A tool for Teachers curriculum packet
Virginia-specific! This book is full of information and activities for teachers to support interdisciplinary and problem-based teaching about watersheds, water quality, stewardship, and management issues. It supports the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement's goal to "provide a meaningful Bay or stream outdoor experience for every school student in the watershed before graduation from high school."
Virginia's Water Resources—A Tool for Teachers was written by Jeremy M. Lloyd, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Science Education, Longwood University, and Kathleen M. Register, Executive Director of Clean Virginia Waterways. It was developed through a grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment. Click here for the Table of Contents and PDF files you can print.
World Water Monitoring Day—Virginia-specific guide for educators
The World Water Monitoring Day is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. Participants sample local water bodies for a core set of water quality parameters including temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity) and dissolved oxygen (DO). Results are shared with participating communities around the globe through the WWMD website: http://www.worldwatermonitoringday.org/
Clean Virginia Waterways worked with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Water Monitoring Council to create this Virginia-specific guide for educators thanks to a grant from Altria. This on-line guide will help you plan a safe and educational World Water Monitoring Day event on your school grounds, or in a nearby park.
More resources for educators, including how to handle animals in your classroom.
Rain Barrels & Harvesting Rain Water
Clean Virginia Waterways is a leader in water conservation through the use of rain barrels. More than 160 nonprofit organizations and local governments have been trained by CVW to put on Rain Barrel Workshops in their communities. Tens of thousands rain barrels are deployed across Virginia thanks to CVW and its partners.
Conserve water, reduce runoff & save a bit of money
Drought or no drought, we should all conserve water. Virginia's groundwater and fresh water supplies are limited. As more people are using groundwater, we need to use it responsibly. Rainwater is usually free of dissolved minerals and great for your indoor plants, garden and lawn, washing your car, and your birdbaths.
If your roof's area is 1,200 square feet (30 x 40 feet), then 1 inch of rain equals more than 700 gallons! Harvest this rainwater which otherwise would be lost to runoff. To harvest even more rainwater, connect several barrels in a series and have 100s of gallons of water capacity.
Runoff can cause erosion, plus carry fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals into streams where they are very damaging. Rain barrels help you manage peak storm runoff. If you get your water from the town, why pay to water your gardens when you can collect hundreds of gallons at no cost? Also, if you depend on electricity to run your well pump, water in rain barrels is handy in power outages.
Rain Barrel Workshops
Every spring, CVW works with partners across the state in offering rain barrel workshops. Workshops cover water conservation, how to prevent polluted runoff, the benefits of rain barrels, how to install and maintain a rain barrel, and how to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about upcoming workshops. Please put "Rain Barrel Workshop" in the subject line.
Would your organization or park like to co-sponsor a Rain Barrel Workshop with CVW? Call CVW at 434-395-2602 to learn more about workshops and supplies for workshops (barrels, faucet kits, etc.).
Virginia Waterways Cleanup
Part of the International Coastal Cleanup
September 1 through October 31 annually
Sites for the 2014 Virginia Waterways Cleanups (September and October) will soon be registering volunteers! It is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
1. Find a cleanup site near you. (2014 cleanup sites will be posted later this summer)
2. Contact the Site Captain to register and get details on where to meet.
3. Show up, cleanup & fill out a data card! Bring some friends & family members too! Your actions = cleaner water!
This annual cleanup of trash and litter in our rivers and on our beaches is part of the International Coastal Cleanup and is the largest event held by Clean Virginia Waterways.
Thousands of volunteers gather along the shorelines of Virginia’s rivers, lakes, bays, and beaches in September and October to cleanup litter and debris, and recycle found items. They also complete Data Cards, supplied by Ocean Conservancy, to collect valuable information about the amounts and types of litter and debris. Please participate in this statewide and international effort dedicated to cleaning the world’s waterways.
Cigarette butts as litter
Clean Virginia Waterways was a pioneer in researching cigarette butt litter -- the most common type of litter in Virginia, in the U.S.A. and in the world according to data collected by International Coastal Cleanup Volunteers.
Learn all about cigarette butt litter, and the simple steps that we can take to reduce this form of litter.
Balloons as litter: a problem we can solve
Balloons become litter when released into the air. Guess you can say there is a "down side" to balloons.
Help us collect information about balloons as litter!
Citizen scientists are being asked to help collect data about balloons found in Virginia between April 22, 2012 and April 22, 2014. This "Earth Day to Earth Day" study is co-sponsored by Clean Virginia Waterways and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Learn More about this ground-breaking study, or click here if you are ready to enter data about balloons you have found.
What goes up must come down! Balloons return to the land and sea where they can be mistaken for prey and eaten by animals. Balloons are hazards when they enter the aquatic environment because they can look a great deal like jellyfish—a major source of food for many animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs. In 1985, an infant sperm whale was found dead of starvation as a result of ingestion of an inflated Mylar balloon which had lodged in its intestines. Ribbons and strings tied to balloons can lead to entanglement.
Instead of balloon releases...
- Plant a tree or flowering bush.
- Create a wildlife garden that will attract butterflies and birds.
- Blow bubbles.
- DROP balloons (non-helium filled) from a tall building. Watch people have fun kicking and playing with the balloons. Then, pop them and dispose of correctly.
- Release balloons INSIDE a church, gym or ballroom.
- Memorial service -- Give everyone a balloon and a sewing pin, and tell them to make a wish for their loved one. On the count of three -- everyone bursts their balloons, sending wishes to heaven.
- Cancer-free celebrations -- Give everyone a balloon, a pin and a marking pen. Tell them to write on the balloon the number of years they have been cancer-free. On the count of three -- everyone bursts their balloons. Messages on small pieces of paper can be inserted into each balloon with an inspirational message. After the fun, dispose of the trash correctly.
- Outdoor sporting events -- use bands, lights, banners, singers, crowd give-a-ways (towels, noise makers, etc.) to build excitement, but don't release balloons!
- Donate books to a local library, food to a local food bank, or pet food to a local animal shelter to celebrate your group's acheivement or to honor a loved one.
We can celebrate with balloons! Just don't let them go!
Learn more about the impacts of balloon litter...and the solutions!