Letting go of balloons...
We need to let go of our obsession with helium balloons. Every single day helium-filled balloons are released or accidentally escape from outdoor events. They can travel hundreds of kilometres over land and sea, and almost always end up in our waterways and oceans where they pose a threat to wildlife.
The CSIRO has identified balloons as being in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife, and the Ocean Conservancy puts balloons at #3 on their list of the Deadliest Ocean Trash.
Zoos Victoria runs a campaign called When Balloons Fly, Seabirds Die that highlights the problem with balloons and advocates for the use of eco-friendly alternatives.
The campaign cites Lord Howe Island as a case study in point, where balloons and their ribbon-attachments have been found to be amongst the most prevalent and identifiable items found in the stomachs of more than 80% of the birds and chicks on the Island. Balloons are 32 times more likely to kill a sea bird than pieces of hard plastic when ingested!
Disintegrating balloons closely resemble jellyfish, so both marine and terrestrial animals can easily mistake deflated balloons as food. Once ingested, balloons can cause stomach or intestinal blockages that can cause choking or starvation.
Balloon ribbon-attachments can be just as dangerous. Birds, penguins, platypuses, sea turtles, seals and dolphins (the list goes on) can become entangled - disabling their wings, flippers or fins and restricting their ability to swim and feed, potentially leading to infections, amputations, starvation and drowning.
Aren’t latex balloons biodegradable and therefore a safe option?
The two most commonly used balloon types are latex and mylar. Owing to its biodegradability, latex is widely considered a safe option. However, testing has shown that decomposition of latex can take anywhere from six months to four years - giving it plenty of time to cause harm.
Mylar balloons are composed of synthetic nylon with a metallic coating. They are non-biodegradable and therefore altogether ill-advised.
HELIUM IS A NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCE!
The wastage of helium to blow up balloons is a big problem not many people know about.
Although it’s the second most abundant element in the universe, helium is relatively rare on earth. It cannot be manufactured, and once it’s released into the atmosphere, it quickly escapes into space. Helium is very important: it's used in MRI scanners, fiber optics, welding, cooling nuclear reactors, cryogenics, lasers, LCDs, rare document preservation, and breathing ventilators for infants. We need affordable helium for these products. Being a non-renewable resource, we can’t continue to waste it on balloons. Without helium, balloons wouldn't be released and end up where they don’t belong.
The balloon-pollution solution...
The reality is, balloons are extremely popular - millions of them are sold every day - so they're not going anywhere. But that's the key - to stop them going everywhere! Helium balloons are the real menace to the environment because they float away and end up in wild habitats. So, if you're going to have balloons at your party - don't fill them up with helium (or if you must, at least don't let them go). Blow them up the old fashioned way (with air!) and hang them in a bunch instead. When they're done, make sure they end up in the bin.
There's a global shift away from using balloons to mark celebrations altogether. There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives: decorations that can be reused or recycled, such as tissue paper pompoms, paper lanterns and reusable fabric buntings. Or consider investing in a bubble-making machine that can be used again and again!
We have a range of decorations that are make great alternatives to balloons... They're equally fun and colourful - and better for our planet!
Written by Anika O. for The Good Party Co.
When Balloons Fly, Seabirds Die - Zoos Victoria
Rubber Jellyfish Movie - Conservation Heart Films