Balloons have become synonymous with celebrations. They get tied to porches to signify a birthday. They are turned into arches as an entry to a party and they get released into the air to signify big milestones. But people often forget the impact that balloons have on the planet. So why are they so bad for the environment?
Balloons are single use. They get used for a few hours and then thrown out or worse released into the atmosphere. Balloons are not recyclable and go into landfills where they sit for years and years. Some balloon companies use greenwashing to label balloons as biodegradable because latex is a natural, made from sap of the rubber tree. But in a latex balloon you don't just find latex. You find preservatives, colour dyes, plasticizers and other chemicals. Also the conditions for breaking down in the lab are much different than what you find in your regular landfill. It can take up to 4 years for these balloons to break down.
The bright colours of balloons attract birds and other animals - they eat them and can choke or get internal blockages. To marine life, balloons look like jellyfish so the same thing can happen to turtles and dolphins.
We have a finite amount of helium in the atmosphere as it cannot be manufactured. Helium is used in very important things like MRI machines, welding, lasers and some breathing ventilators. We currently have a helium shortage which is the reason balloons are so expensive right now. Helium cannot be reused so using it in balloons is wasteful when it could be saved for much more important things.
So is one balloon here or there going to ruin our planet? No. But with the way we are headed, the balloon industry is anticipated to reach $2.4 billion by 2030. So we can choose alternatives and change our mindset that all parties need to have balloons.
Some great alternatives are paper lanterns, paper fans, tissue paper pom-poms, fabric banners and fabric bunting. I make custom garlands as a replacement for balloons and they are made from items that I rent to you and get used again and again, keeping them out of landfill. Check them out here.
Changing our mindset on something that we've grown up with is hard. But our climate crisis is an emergency and our kids are depending on the action of everyone right now so let's do what we can together!