Rescue operation: balloon collection
Get Up Stand Up shop owner Meaghan Shannon set up this collection box to encourage locals to “rescue” balloons found on our shores and collect them through the summer. A total of 1,500 have been collected since 2015.

Courtesy photos

Rescue operation: balloon collection

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
5/30/2019


Fifteen hundred less balloons can be found on local beaches thanks to the owner of Get Up Stand Up’s collection guessing game

Bell Street’s Get Up Stand Up in Bellport is serving the community with more than just paddleboards and fitness classes. For the past five years, since opening up shop, owner Meaghan Shannon has been collecting littered balloons and turning them into a fun guessing game for the community.

The unexpected deed-turned-game started as an innocent collection. Whenever she went paddleboarding at local beaches and would see a stranded, deflated balloon, Shannon would pick it up. Soon enough, she had the community involved, by placing a jar at the shop to guess how many balloons were collected in a season. 

“When I opened in 2015, I spent a lot of time on the water and whenever I saw something sparkly, I would get it,” she said of the balloons. “Then, when we started going out of our way to collect them, we got so many.”

Last season, Shannon and community members who joined in collected a few hundred; about 1,500 have been collected in total since the start. On season average, about 28 balloons are collected per week — the equivalent of four to five a day. 

“People are shocked when they find out how many balloons we collect,” said Shannon, a resident of Bellport Village. “People guess low numbers like 25 but then we’ll have over 500 in a season. That’s just crazy.”

The balloons, she said, can be found in the water, on the shores or even buried in the sand. Though she isn’t anti-balloon altogether, she doesn’t use them in her own celebrations, suggesting people use paper cutouts or bubbles instead.

“Really, though, I am just anti openly-releasing them,” she said. “They don’t make it to wherever you want them to go or to the landfill.”

Shannon’s balloon collection box will remain open until Labor Day. At that time, the balloons will be counted and a prize box of goodies will be awarded to the person who guesses the closest. Those who wish to make a guess can do so by visiting the shop. The collected balloons are then repurposed for art as a project for the local kids.

“Meaghan grew up on the Great South Bay — she loves it and has always been environmentally conscious,” added her mother and local photographer Jan Shannon, who just recently found her first balloon at Robert Moses Beach. “This is her way of giving back and educating the community about the harm of balloons to the environment. I am so proud of her.”

TOP THREE BALLOON FACTS

• Animals often mistake balloons for food and ingest them, causing huge harm to their digestion. 

• Latex balloons can take anywhere from six months to four years to decompose. 

• Balloon strings cause issues as well, getting caught in power lines and tangled around wildlife. 

CHOOSING ALTERNATIVES is a simple way to protect the planet, animal life and create less waste. A few simple alternatives that can be used are bubbles, pinwheels and tissue paper decoration