Volunteer: Balloon releases leading to more lakeshore litter

People prepare to release balloons at Paris 11th district town hall, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu).


SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A volunteer who cleans up trash along the shore of Van Buren County State Park believes an uptick in balloon releases are causing more problems on the beach.

Donna White tells 24 Hour News 8 she’s seen an increase in certain materials piling up along the lakeshore.

“This is what we’re all talking about,” White said as she untangled a snarled off-white ribbon from a pile of brush on the beach. “There’s the string to a balloon right there.”

Walking along the shoreline, White and her husband spotted straws, balloons, prescription bottles and other trash all within a few minutes.

“You see this and it looks clean,” she said, gesturing over the blue water. “But then you see the minute (waste).”

White says when people organize balloon releases in honor of crime victims, they probably don’t think about where those balloons end up.

Her tip: Don’t release balloons; release bubbles.

White doesn’t want to take away from these special release ceremonies, but she said the recent presidential election made her want to do more to save the environment.

“I love Lake Michigan,” she said. “I thought, well I’ve got one of the greatest inland lakes in the world here.”

There’s a wave of uncertainty about federal funds for the Great Lakes, and White sees that as a perfect time for beachgoers to step up.

“This is not, this isn’t fake news,” said White. “After the election, I said I’ve got to do something and I’ve got to do something locally.”

Volunteers will be working to clean the shorelines of all the Great Lakes this summer, as part of All Hands on Deck cleanup day. Those interested in helping are encouraged to visit the event’s Facebook page.