The Honest Truth About Biodegradable Balloons. Eco-friendly or not?

Written by: Hendrik

Category: News

Updated on:


The truth about whether or not latex balloons are biodegradable

Let’s face it. The hardest part is telling your kids there aren’t any balloons at their birthday parties. Oh, and remember those water balloon fights we used to have during the hot months?

Ain’t going to happen. We have to replace them with buckets, super soakers, and other alternatives to balloons.

On the flip side, you can argue that your kid’s celebrations have just saved thousands of animals from ingesting balloons and slowly starving to death. It is the second most common plastic item eaten by marine wildlife.

Yep, sorry to be the party pooper here, but the truth sometimes hurts.

However, below are some great alternatives to balloons to make those special occasions stand out without the long-term effect of plastic bags in the sky.

I will get to this in a bit, but first, let’s dive into why balloons aren’t biodegradable and how companies mislead the eco-conscious consumer.

What are biodegradable balloons made of?

thai lantern

Biodegradable balloons are made from natural rubber also known as natural latex, which comes from the rubber tree. Natural rubber if untreated will biodegrade over a period of one year with the right conditions of moisture and bacteria.

However, the process of making rubber is harmful to the environment and the workers.

When a company advertises their balloons as 100% biodegradable, they are lying to our faces.

There is no such thing as so-called biodegradable balloons. The closest ones are sky lanterns made from paper. However, they have a metal ring that will rust, but it takes time. The more dangerous part about the lanterns is that they have an open flame inside, which has led to several incidents.

It is beautiful to watch thousand of sky lanterns being released into the sky, and this is the most eco friendly alternative to balloons.

How long do biodegradable balloons take to decompose?

Biodegradable balloons are made from materials that are designed to break down over time, typically through the action of bacteria and other natural processes.

The rate at which biodegradable balloons decompose can vary depending on the specific material used and environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and the presence of microbes.

Biodegradable balloons may take anywhere from a few months to several years to fully decompose. It’s important to note that while biodegradable balloons may be a more environmentally friendly option compared to traditional balloons made from non-biodegradable materials, they still have the potential to cause litter and harm wildlife if not disposed of properly.

The balloon industry is lying to us and has been getting away with it for too long.

Their most common slogan is; Latex biodegrades at the same rate as an oak leaf. In my research, I also found that it can take six years for an oak leaf to decompose.

Some even say it takes 300 years for rubber to decompose. I think ecofriendly balloons are not a real thing and we should be looking at some better alternatives.

Latex while it naturally occurs from the sap of rubber trees, takes a lot of chemicals until it is made into what we know as latex, Biodegradable latex doesn’t exist.

Different types of balloons:

latex balloon
The Honest Truth About Biodegradable Balloons. Eco-friendly or not? 9

Standard Latex Balloons = not biodegradable.

mylar or foil balloons
The Honest Truth About Biodegradable Balloons. Eco-friendly or not? 10

Mylar Balloons or Foil Balloons = not biodegradable.

thai lantern
The Honest Truth About Biodegradable Balloons. Eco-friendly or not? 11

Thai Lantern = biodegradable

Are Latex Balloons biodegradable?

The short answer is no; they are not.

Where can you buy biodegradable balloons?

When you type into google biodegradable balloons, you will find a company called balloonaticsdesigns, claiming to have 100% biodegradable material.

There are two problems:

  1. The term biodegradable can be misleading because it doesn’t mean they are compostable, as you may think.
  2. Secondly, to make latex, you need first to get the sap from the rubber tree and then use quite a few chemicals to make latex. Latex is not a natural product and will never biodegrade or compost.

Biodegradable VS Compostable

Read Article Here!

What they are writing on their website is not accurate and misleading. I know it sucks because you are the eco-conscious consumer, and we are being greenwashed by companies using terms like plant-based or natural or biodegradable, which aren’t government-approved terms. Hence the marketers use them to suck you in.

The Problem

helium balloons

Helium Balloons, when released, can travel long distances. Some studies have found balloons as far as 200 km from the release point.

Balloon release events are a beautiful spectacle. Kids love it, and it has become the standard for many celebrations. Sadly those mass balloon releases have a dark end to them.

The news is somewhat sickening, from power outages to stomachs of dead animals filled with balloons. The potential harm that balloon releases have on the environment is enormous.

Whether they are marketed as biodegradable or compostable balloons, they do not biodegrade. We have been lied to for the companies to make a profit.

If you want to see this in more detail, this website has a study with a balloon sitting in nature for over seven years. Spoiler alert: A balloon is not eco-friendly and only gets dirty over time.

What can we do?

You can, first of all, stop releasing balloons into the atmosphere. If you need to have, balloons make sure to throw them into the bin after your party.

Here are some eco-friendly alternatives to helium or latex balloons are:

  • fire dance
  • paper flowers
  • paper spinners
  • confetti made from leaves
  • paper lanterns
  • ribbons and streamers
  • kites
  • windsocks
  • banners
  • garlands
  • paper pompoms
  • candles
  • bowing bubbles
  • origami
fire dancer
The Honest Truth About Biodegradable Balloons. Eco-friendly or not? 12
alternative to biodegradable balloons
The Honest Truth About Biodegradable Balloons. Eco-friendly or not? 13

As you can see, there are many great alternatives to balloons, and often they bring people together if you organize a workshop to create your wind spinners.


Why are Balloons dangerous?

Balloons aren’t dangerous. They become a threat to wildlife if left behind or released into the air. We learned that they can travel vast distances and look like food to many sea turtles and other marine life. Because of their flexibility, they are easily swallowed but clog up the animal’s stomachs, leading to starvation with a full stomach.

On top of that, we are running out of Helium. Yep, it's hard to believe, but it's true. Check out the link for more information on helium.

Imagine that you starve even though you don’t feel hungry.

I am very willing to educate my daughter, and I am sure she will be happy to opt for one of the alternatives above.

She loves animals!

Photo of author

Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

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