One of the questions we get here at Nifty Balloons is, “are balloons bad for the environment?” While the full answer to this is somewhat complicated, if used responsibly balloons decorations are one of the more environmentally ethical party supplies available.
A common misconception about balloons is that they are made out of plastic or some other synthetic material. In reality, the vast majority of balloons are made out of latex, which is 100% natural. Once popped, they take up very little space in the trash and decompose rapidly.
Proper disposal depends on the type of balloons that you’re using, as well as how you’re using them. Read on to learn more about what balloons are made of, how to care for them, and how to clean up after your event.
Latex can be harvested from over 200 different species of plant, which reduces its overall impact on the planet. This diversity of sources means that there is no need to overplant or overharvest latex, and there is little chance that there could ever be a global shortage.
Even though it cannot be recycled, latex is a renewable resource that takes up very little space in any landfill. Latex balloons are also biodegradable and take less than four years to decompose entirely. This is exceptionally fast when compared to the centuries that it takes most synthetic materials to break down.
Foil balloons (Mylar is a specific brand name) are made of a metalized polyester film. These aren’t as flexible and don’t tend to expand in the same way that latex can. Because of this, however, they also hold shapes better, so foil is often used to make balloon letters, numbers, or other specific shapes.
Unfortunately, foil doesn’t biodegrade like latex. However, because of this - they hold helium much longer than latex balloons (by several weeks), and if cared for can be refilled and used multiple times!
Environmentally Responsible Balloon Use
It is important that when you use balloon decorations that you remember that even though latex is biodegradable it is still trash.
Never simply release balloons into the air, even latex ones, as what goes up must inevitably come down. Releasing balloons simply make them someone else’s problem. Pop all balloons that you aren’t taking with you and put the scraps in the trash before you leave the venue. You can even turn this into a game for the kids by throwing a quick “popping party” once the regular party’s over!
Foil balloons especially should never be left behind or released into the environment. Given how long it takes them to biodegrade any Mylar balloon that you leave behind will remain indefinitely.
There are some specific laws that regulate foil balloons in California. For example, they must be attached to weights in order to avoid accidentally releasing them into the air. They pose a particular hazard to power lines and should always be well secured to avoid causing shorts, blackouts, or sparks.
Planned balloon releases, regardless of the balloon material, are both illegal and damaging to the environment.
Balloons are no more harmful to the environment than food waste or paper trash. You still have to remember to pick up after yourself when you’re done – but hopefully you were planning on doing that anyway! Pop all the balloons you aren’t taking with you, don’t randomly release balloons, and remember to pick up after yourself – the environment will thank you!
Feel free to contact us here at Nifty Balloons you have other questions about responsible balloon use, or if you would like to book balloon entertainment or decorations for your next event. We’re happy to discuss your party plans with you to ensure that you have an Instagram-worthy event that doesn’t put any excess pressure on the planet.