Dutch Party for the Animals goes to court over balloon litter

6 December 2018

Party for the Animals MP Christine Teunissen has filed a case against Klaas Dijkhoff, leader of the Dutch governing and liberal party VVD, for dumping 500 balloons, ribbons and greeting cards in the environment. The balloons were released during a VVD congress last week. Teunissen: “Helium balloon litter is very harmful. Moreover, this was an advertising stunt and introducing promotional material into the environment is an economic offence. That is why the Party for the Animals wants to start a test case.”

The balloon is one of the common forms of litter on beaches. Balloons can end up in natural sites a long way across national frontiers or in the sea, where they contribute to the Great Pacific garbage patch and possibly enter the food chain. Birds and marine animals may get entangled in the strings or die of eating the balloon bits. The Party for the Animals in the Netherlands asks that political consideration is given to this matter. Moreover, initiatives such as Balloons Blow, Don’t Let them Go have shown that there are animal and environmentally friendly alternatives to balloons.

So-called biodegradable balloons are not a solution, as they degrade only under the right circumstances and still take years to degrade. These harmful effects were not considered by the VVD party. Teunissen: “Dijkhoff released his balloons, not having a clue of the damage he was causing. A typical example of the VVD’s short-termism. For a politician who is constantly telling others to ‘clean up their own mess’, Dijkhoff is setting a rather bad example.”

MP for the Dutch liberal party VVD eating a balloon

The liberal politicians of the VVD party seem to attach a rather high value to the release of balloons. In 2015, a VVD MP ate a balloon during a discussion on a possible ban on balloons in order to ‘show’ that balloons are supposedly safe for animals.

Test case

The Dutch Environmental Management Act among others states that deliberately dumping litter into the environment is prohibited. Furthermore, leaving promotional material in the public sphere is an economic offence. Still, the law rarely regards balloons as litter, which is not right according to the Party for the Animals.

Teunissen: “When someone who throws a can on the pavement is caught in the act, they will receive a penalty of 400 euros. But when 500 balloons with ribbons and greeting cards attached are released in the environment, there is no punishment at all. It is high time to be very clear about the dangers of balloons.”