Banning balloons to protect the environment?

First plastic straws.

Now some are considering a ban on the public release of balloons as a way of protecting the environment and fighting pollution.

Clemson University recently decided to stop the practice of releasing 10,000 balloons before home football games. The school made the move as part of its sustainability efforts, according to a report by the Associated Press.

A town in Rhode Island took the step this year of banning balloons as a move toward protecting marine life. What about the release of balloons by school children to see how far they might travel? And what about weather balloons?

Following efforts to limit plastic bags, the push by environmentalists against straws has gained traction in recent months, partly because they’re seen as unnecessary for most. Companies including Starbucks and Disney are promising to phase out plastic straws, which can be difficult to recycle because of their size and often end up as trash in the ocean. A handful of U.S. cities recently passed or are considering bans. And the push may bring attention to other items people may not have considered — like festive balloons.

“The issue of straws has really broadened the marine debris issue,” says Emma Tonge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People might not realize balloons are a danger, she says, because of their “light and whimsical” image.

Chelsea Rochman, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Toronto, says people should think systemically about waste and pollution, but that efforts to bring attention to specific products shouldn’t be dismissed as too minor.