Are balloons really biodegradable? You may have heard people claim balloons cause serious negative impacts to the planet, while others argue these natural products pose no threat to the environment.
So who is right?
I'm not going to tell you what to think either way. But I will lay out the facts and let you decide how you feel about using event balloons.
Balloons Are A Birthday Staple
Balloons are practically synonymous with birthday party. Have you ever seen a child NOT smile when given a balloon?
These rubber globes have universal appeal, and offer big impact at an affordable price. It's no wonder balloons have made a huge resurgence into the party world in the last decade.
BUT there are growing concerns over the safety and sustainability of these childhood staples.
Are There Environmentally Friendly Balloons
So is there such thing as an environmentally friendly balloon?
Are Biodegradable Balloons Safe For The Environment?
100% latex balloons are made from natural rubber, that when sustainably harvested is a fabulous renewable resource.
These high quality balloons really ARE biodegradable and pose much less risk to the environment than their mixed material counterparts.
Although technically “natural”, it still takes 6 months for latex to break down naturally in a compost bin. When tossed into a landfill, however it'll stay intact for decades.
Because the waste is packed in so tightly and immediately covered by new garbage, landfills don't have adequate water and sunlight filtration for waste to actually break down.
So even paper, which easily decomposes in soil, takes decades, or longer when ending up in the landfill. Which is why it's so important to recycle everything we can!
Are Foil Balloons Eco Friendly?
Foil balloons, aka “mylar” balloons are made of this metal and plastics which are unfortunately not biodegradable. BUT that doesn't mean you should never use them.
Foil mylar balloons are recyclable at the end of an event if you release the air/helium. And while it's easy just to trash them, with a little effort they are reusable!
The letter mylars are my favorite. Simply insert the same inflating straw and use it to push the air out of the balloon.
Once empty you can fold and store it for later. Or if you have the space, just hang your balloon alphabet until it's needed next.
What About Balloon Releases?
Ok. So we have some choices on HOW we dispose of our balloons. But what happens when we release them into the air during a celebration, memorial, or ceremony?
Balloons released into the atmosphere eventually pop and end up dropping to the earth below, where they should just happily decompose, right?
Unfortunately, pieces of balloon then litter the ground parading as enticing snacks for wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of animals perish annually with balloon pieces in their stomachs. Which is not okay. Read for more information on the dangers of latex litter.
While I discourage releasing balloons, there are still occasions that a release of some kind is desired like graduations, memorials, and angel day celebrations. So I've put together some environmentally friendly alternatives for your balloon release.
So Do I Have to Give up Balloons?
That decision is completely up to you. And of course, it depends on how you plan to use them. But here is MY checklist when deciding whether to use balloons at a party:
- Can I Purchase only 100% Latex balloons from a company like Qualatex?
- Can I use them inflated with air instead of helium?
- Will I be able to compost or recycle them after the event?
- Can I be sure no balloons will be released into the environment?
If I can answer YES to all these questions, I feel fine using balloons as a focal point for my events. I pick and choose however and won't use them for all our celebrations.
How do you feel about it? Did you learn anything new? Or would you like to add something to I haven't covered? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
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More Eco Friendly Party Ideas
- Eco Friendly Party With Easy Substitutions
- Environmentally Friendly Balloon Alternatives
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Thanks for the tips Bri! I was just doing a search about which companies have biodegradable balloons, and your article popped up on google. 🙂
That’s so awesome! Thanks for letting me know. I’d love to know more about any other companies but so far Qualatex is the only one I’ve found with an environmental commitment.
It’s so funny, I’ve been researching balloon manufacturers too lately for my balloon garland post and Qualatex was one of the big ones I found. I have a hard time re-using my mylar balloons though as I’m not super gentle when I deflate them.
Qualatex is seriously the best one I’ve used to date. And yes, you’ve got to have a little more patience to deflate the mylars for sure!
Thank you for doing all of your research and putting this information out. This is a wonderful blog! Yes, I certainly learned something new!
You are so welcome. I’m so glad it helped. It was fascinating to research all of this and learn more about something that has weighed on my conscience for a while now.
Wow I didn’t know so much of this, it’s really helpful!
I’m so glad that you found it helpful! I sure learned a lot in the process of my research and now I can feel good making informed decisions.
I didn’t know that much about balloons! I love them but eco alternates would also be nice!
It’s a personal decision and I love them too! But I like knowing how and where I feel okay about using them. Now there are lots of other ways to add a little fun to the party.