Mar 5- Balloon Release Stunt Threatens SF Bay

A stunt involving the release of 10,000 plastic balloons over San Francisco last week has prompted public anger at this latest unnecessary and irresponsible threat to San Francisco Bay.

Video game developer THQ orchestrated the publicity stunt on Wednesday, to promote their new video game. The event started off well, creating a visually stimulating panorama in the city’s skyline. That is, until bad weather blew a sizable portion of the balloons into the San Francisco Bay.

The release resulted in hundreds of pounds of plastic litter throughout the city and in San Francisco bay, posing a threat to wildlife which mistake the material for food. THQ claimed the balloons were made from an organic material and will biodegrade. However, even a polymer capable of degrading in the marine environment could take 90 to 180 days to do so, posing an ongoing threat to sea birds and marine wildlife.

A THQ statement released:

"The balloons released at the Homefront rally event today were made from a 100% organic product and are 100% biodegradable. The balloons have no history of causing any environmental pollution on land or in water. Although we're confident that there will be no harm to the environment, we've retained a clean up crew to remove any potential lingering debris. This was a THQ sponsored promotion and GameStop had no involvement, whatsoever."

CAW has initiated an Environmental Advertising Compliance Campaign, aimed at curbing the mis-use of environmental claims. Under California law, it’s illegal to label plastic bags, food ware, and beverage containers as "biodegradable:" a term that currently has no scientifically accepted ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standard. Current bill, SB 567 (DeSaulnier), would update this law, making it illegal to label any plastic product with this term.

Without any knowledge of the manufacturer of the balloons, it’s hard to say whether or not the actual balloons used contained any plastic material or mixtures, but what is certain is that some companies are seeing the term "biodegradable" as a justification to engage in activities they otherwise would not (ie. releasing thousands of balloons into the environment and then walking away). After all, it wasn’t until they received criticism that they announced they would send out a cleanup crew.

Watch a video of event here: