The honest truth about latex balloons and their biodegradability

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The truth about whether or not latex balloons are biodegradable

Let’s face it. The hardest part is telling your kids there aren’t going to be any balloons this year. But 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 animals.

Yep, sorry to be the party pooper here, but the truth sometimes hurts. However, there are some great alternatives to make those special occasions really 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

Well, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. There is no such thing as biodegradable balloons. The closest ones are the sky lanterns made from paper. However, they have a metal ring that will biodegrade, 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 that I am not detailing here.

Different types of balloons:

latex balloon

Standard Latex Balloons = not biodegradable.

mylar or foil balloons

Mylar Balloons or Foil Balloons = not biodegradable.

thai lantern

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 https://www.balloonaticsdesigns.com/, 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

not biodegradable balloons released into the air

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

The balloon industry is lying to us and has been getting away with it for far too long. The most common slogan they use is; Latex biodegrades at the same rate as an oak leaf. In my research, I also found that it can take years for an oak leaf to decompose.

Did you notice how I used decomposing instead of biodegrading? It feels more to the point.

The release of helium balloons into the sky is a beautiful spectacle. Kids love it, and it has become the standard for any celebration. Sadly those mass balloon releases have a dark end to them.

But Balloons, whether they are marketed as biodegradable or compostable balloons, do not biodegrade. 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; They only get 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
alternative to biodegradable balloons

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

kite in the air

Why are Balloons dangerous?

Balloons aren’t dangerous. They become a threat to wildlife if left behind or released into the air. As we learned, they can travel vast distances and end up looking like food to a lot of sea turtles and other marine life. Because of their flexibility, they are easily swallowed but then clog up the animal’s stomachs, which leads 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 those alternatives above.

She loves animals!

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