Balloons may appear attractive, but they are associated with several environmental concerns. All released balloons return to Earth as unsightly litter, including those marketed as “biodegradable latex.” In addition, they emit a great deal of small pieces of plastic into the air, as well as abrasive particles such as latex particles. Other sources of balloon litter include pets, beaches, and the wind. There is also concern that balloons may have a negative impact on wildlife in the wild, potentially killing or injuring animals that come into contact with them.
How are balloon releases harmful to the environment?
A release of balloons can impact the ecology of land. Because balloons float on the water or are carried by wind, they often float a great distance from where they are released. For example, in 2012, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that many balloons launched from Puget Sound had drifted out into the ocean and the Pacific Northwest at large, indicating that the balloons were carried over vast distances. When they reach the surface of the water, these balloons can become a hazard to marine wildlife, including seals, turtles, and fish.
Because balloons are not biodegradable, the potential for these balloons to enter the marine environment and remain in the environment is high. Research suggests that at least some balloons may be met with by sharks, causing a disturbance to the animals which may then trigger an attack.
Additionally, balloons that reach the surface of the water may take other forms such as the aforementioned strings. Because of their volume, these strings may be ingested by turtles and marine birds, or otherwise get caught in their digestive systems. In 2006, for example, an estimated 100 turtles died after ingesting latex on the beach near Monterey, CA. The latex, in turn, created a blockage in the turtle’s intestinal track, leading to an undigested blockage. Because the latex had not been properly biodegraded, it remained a pollutant in the turtles’ systems for the rest of their lives.
The plastic- and latex-laden balloons released at an urban beach are not biodegradable. If the balloons were to break up into pieces, they would float to the ocean and become marine debris. Therefore, it is essential to release balloons at a point where they can either be used or not in the first place.
There is no method by which helium (a vital element in the manufacture of helium-filled balloons) can be recycled, and the weight of helium balloons releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. To help address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned the discharge of helium-filled balloons over populated areas.
Inflated balloons that make their way back to Earth or water pose a risk to wildlife because they may be ingested due to their appealing colour or their ribbons and tassels, which form the perfect trap for animals to become entangled in. A report titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data, which can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website shows thousands of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast. The Ocean Trash Index provides data on ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers worldwide on one day each fall during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
Sea turtles have been known for years to mistake a floating plastic bag for a jellyfish. To a sea turtle, balloons can resemble jellyfish. When an animal eats a balloon, internal blockages can occur, resulting in starvation and death.
Even the balloon’s string can be hazardous to wildlife in a variety of ways. The series can wrap itself around birds, dolphins, and other marine life, trapping them or severely restricting their movement. The string has the potential to cut into their skin, causing infection.
When there is a limited supply of helium to fill balloons, I’m amazed that party supply stores can still sell it. Helium is a vital gas used in various applications, including medicine (for example, MRI scanners), space exploration, and other fields. At all costs, stay away from helium-filled balloons.
Helium is a inert gas that is part of the Earth’s atmosphere. Unlike the other gases that float in the sky (such as nitrogen and oxygen), helium does not react with other chemicals, such as acids or bases. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are no other gases or liquids in the sky with helium concentrations so low. Helium is non-toxic, non-reactive, non-corrosive, and highly inert. It has a density of just 0.0023 pounds per cubic foot, which makes it quite light. However, its low density means it expands as it rises and forms a gas bubble inside the balloon, making it heavier than it appears.
Thankfully, helium is found naturally in a few regions around the world, including Tibet and the Caspian Sea, although we are still a long way from sustainability. A company called Helium.com is one company looking to solve this problem. Their approach is to make balloons out of other, more environmentally friendly gases, including argon and carbon dioxide.
Is biodegradable balloon an option?
Not really. While some types of latex balloons do break down when exposed to the right conditions, other types, such as latex and polyester, aren’t biodegradable, and therefore can harm the environment when left to decompose. Also, biodegradable balloons are not always as strong as latex and polyester balloons.
Balloon vendors typically warn you to discard balloons in the trash can or recycling bin. If you purchase a balloon with a scent, don’t put it in the trash. The string from a balloon that is released with a scent is a pollutant that can be inhaled and land on your clothes. Additionally, do not put a balloon in your garden, as it can blow into your house or small children can play with it.
What should you do with biodegradable balloons after the party?
After the party, if your family plans to release balloons in the sky, make sure you dispose of them properly. According to the National Park Service, most balloons that you find on the ground will decompose within one year. In the meantime, the balloons can still cause damage to wildlife and even block coastal habitats. If a balloon gets into an animal’s mouth or causes a chokehold, the animal could die from suffocation.
The best way to recycle a biodegradable balloon is to recycle it. You can either pop the balloon and put the strings into a trash bin or recycle bin, or you can tape the strings to a small piece of cardboard, leave it in a bag, and then send it to a recycling company.
Latex balloons claim to be biodegradable; manufacturers claim that “it can degrade in the same amount of time as an oak leaf.” But, natural latex is biodegradable and effective for the environment. As you’ll see later, balloons contain more than just natural latex. As a result, latex balloons are less biodegradable than most people believe.
So, even though they claim to be biodegradable, this may not be the case. It’s helpful to know what’s inside the balloons to comprehend. Here you can find the best eco-friendly balloons in the UK.
Best think would be to do is to use biodegradable balloons and pop them after you have used them and put it for recycling if possible.