Balloon Litter Research Study, 2012-14


Clean Virginia Waterways (affiliated with Longwood University and the Ocean Conservancy) is working with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center to conduct a two-year study to better understand littered balloons and their attachments.



Data collected by volunteers during this study will help scientists better understand the sources and impacts of this type of litter.

How to submit data:

1. On-line. This is the preferred method to submit your data!

2. Download a Data Card, fill it in and mail, email or fax it to Clean Virginia Waterways.


Submit your data anytime by email ( or by fax (434-395-2978) or by mail (Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, 201 High Street, Farmville, VA 23909)


Citizen scientists of all ages are 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 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.


Attachments to 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.

Photos of the balloons you find are also encouraged!

Thank you for your help in this ground-breaking research.

last edits: 11-1-12

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