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Move over plastic straws, now environmentalists want to let the air out of your party plans

Balloons are next on the list of plastics that environmentalists are hoping to ban. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

First, it was plastic grocery bags, then came plastic straws, and now environmentalists want to let the air out of your party plans by doing away with balloons.

Clemson University in South Carolina plans to bust its longstanding tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before its football games this season, according to News Tribune. And, the town of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, passed a law earlier this year that banned the sale and use of balloons altogether.

"The issue of straws has really broadened the marine debris issue," Emma Tonge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told The Associated Press. “People might not realize balloons are a danger, because of their ‘light and whimsical’ image.”

Disney, Hyatt, and Starbucks, among others, have already begun phasing out plastic straws and some cities from Oakland, California, and Fort Myers Beach, Florida, have banned them altogether. The state of California banned plastic bags in 2016.

What's the problem with balloons?

The controversy surrounding balloons has been up in the air for decades.

In 1990, a letter to the editor of The New York Times sparked a debate over the environmental safety of balloons.

Environmentalists argue that discarded plastics, including balloons, often end up in the ocean, where fish and other sea life can mistake the plastics for food.

But animals aren't the only ones at risk from rogue balloons.

Balloons can also damage electrical systems, according to the AP report.

"Metallic balloons caused 203 power outages in the first five months of this year, up 22 percent from a year ago," California’s Pacific Gas & Electric told the AP.

What else?

Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal there are plenty of alternatives to balloons such as decorated paper, piñatas, and posters.

"There are all kinds of alternatives to balloons, a lot of ways to express yourself," Lacoste said.

One last thing…
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