Friday night Angela and I went to a high school football game. It was a sad day for the home team Trojans, but everyone else seemed to have a good time. It was "Little Trojan Night", so there were tons of young kids at the game. In order to make it more fun for the kids, just about every kid was given a helium-filled balloon. In addition, the drill team did a special high kick routine dedicated to those serving abroad and those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Tons of red, white, and blue balloons added to the routine. Overall, I think I counted about 250 balloons that were released Friday morning.
Two thoughts came to my mind: (1) There aren't a lot of things cooler than watching balloons float away, and (2) how the heck are we able to get away with littering just because the trash goes up, not down? I want to focus on this second point.
According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, "Litter" includes "decayable waste from a public or private establishment, residence, or restaurant, including animal and vegetable waste material from a market or storage facility handling or storing produce or other food products, or the handling, preparation, cooking, or consumption of food, but not including sewage, body wastes, or industrial by-products." Tex. Health & Safety Code sec. 365.011(6)(A). Section 365.011 goes on to tell us it is a Class C misdemeanor if the litter is under five pounds and has a volume of less than 5 gallons. If it is more, it is a class B misdemeanor up to 500 pounds or 100 cubic feet of volume -- then it's a class A misdemeanor (you can get jail up to a year).
I'm going to go ahead and say that with the release of over a hundred balloons could make you liable for a class B misdemeanor. I have seen mention of a specific "balloon release" statute, but couldn't find anything in my research.
Apparently the main problem with balloons is not the balloon itself, but rather the strings that are often attached to them. According to this website, funded by The Balloon Council (who knew they had a balloon council?), balloons aren't a problem at all. Latex balloons (the non-silver ones) are made from 100% organic material and are completely biodegradeable. The website also points out the "proper" way to do a balloon release. It does not include the strings.
Regardless of what this website says, I doubt that the hundred or so balloons that were released from the stands were an official, approved release. I also wonder, without knowing for sure if there is an official release statute, if the school can be held criminally liable for release of all of the balloons. If not for the big release, at least with negligently supplying small children and others with balloons that were more likely than not going to be released into the air.
It's also interesting to note that the Texas Health and Safety Code lists latex balloons as a "choking hazard" See http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/hazpro/toys.shtm. For the same reasons it is dangerous for children, it is dangerous for animals. Check out this website from Virginia. It apparently contradicts The Balloon Council's claims with what the Council calls mere "subjective" data.
I know it looks cool, but isn't there a better option? On top of that, shouldn't a "Christian school" be leading the way in showing us how to be good stewards of our planet? It's not hard to be responsible . . . unless you don't care.