What Is the Leading Source of Beach and Ocean Trash?

What is the leading source of beach and ocean trash?

Many people asked this question answer plastic bottles or plastic bags.

They are a problem for sure, but, ponder the quote below. It’s what I heard when I asked this question of an older beach patrol officer, who has been on or around the water all his life (click here for more on this story and a short video).

“Balloons, they are the number one form of trash on the beach and we find many birds and seals every year who have died because of eating them…”

Based on my experiences walking beaches, I agree.

The count from my morning beach walk today was the following:

  • 6 Plastic Bottles
  • 1 Waxed Milk Carton
  • 1 Soda Can
  • 1 Plastic Food Container
  • 1 Styrofoam Coffee Cup


  • 30 Balloons

Yesterday, I picked up 38 balloons, and one morning last year, I picked up 59 in less than 40 minutes.

As illustrated in the chart below, which represents data collected by the Blue Ocean Society and University of New Hampshire, I’m not alone.

What has been their #1 form of ocean trash collected over 14 years?


In addition to the sheer volume of balloons, one of the more detrimental properties about balloons is that they blow.

I have written about this before and assuredly will again, but a picture from my walk yesterday drives home this point.  A balloon I found on Martha’s Vineyard was from Astoria Queens in New York city.

More on this can be found at a website that we strongly encourage you to follow: Balloons Blow

The Balloons Blow website highlights not only the problem balloons cause for our oceans, but also how they harm wildlife on land and are a major cause of power outages.

Cities and towns such following have either banned helium balloons completely or made balloon releases illegal.

  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • San Francisco, California
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Everett, Massachusetts
  • Nantucket, Massachusetts
  • Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Ventnor, New Jersey
  • Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
  • Plymouth-United Kingdom
  • New South Wales-Australia
  • Sunshine Coast-Queensland-Australia

California, Connecticut and Florida have also taken state wide action (more can be found here).

Please help raise awareness in your community about this problem that is literally blowing around the globe.  Every little action can make a difference, so take some time to make a lasting impact.

Help Clean Up Oceans by not letting balloons blow.

Related Reading:

Will Ocean Plastic Outweigh Fish

Fish In Trouble Due to Ocean Plastic

Only About 15 – But The Day is Young


One Comment on “What Is the Leading Source of Beach and Ocean Trash?

  1. Pingback: What Is Most Common Source of Beach Trash? – Provoking Posts

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