Before we launch into a discussion on balloons and literally, spoil the party with some information you might not be super happy about, let’s start with a few fun facts to keep things friendly:
- A bursting balloon creates a small sonic boom! the quick release of air is at the speed much higher than the sound of air so the hole in the balloon actually breaks the sound barrier. Totally awesome.
- Balloons were invited in 1824, same year as the washing machine and the electromagnet
- Hot air balloons and those balloons you see at parties are not the same thing. I know, confusing right?
We’d like to shed a little light on the ‘biodegradable balloon’ myth being advertised by balloon manufacturers. First let’s clarify what the term ‘biodegradable’ actually means. A material that is biodegradable is able to be broken down into basic particles through natural processes, either through weather or the passage of time. Prior to the industrial age, nearly everything humans produced was biodegradable. Now? Not so much. Eventually everything will break down, given time. It may take a few weeks for something to degrade, like a banana peel, or a few hundred years like man-made petroleum based latex products like balloons or plastic bags. But the concern isn’t just in the eventual breakdown but in the damage the product creates on it’s path towards degradation. We know single use plastic straws and bags are finding their ways into marine mammals and other ocean wildlife. Balloons are found alongside other single use plastic, destroying the wildlife and polluting our marine environment along the way.
There are two types of rubber used to make balloons:
- synthetic rubber is made from petroleum. These take a long time to break down and most balloons on the market are made with synthetic rubber.
- natural latex – this comes from rubber trees which produce a milky, white fluid. This fluid is treated to create natural latex rubber, used in globes, condoms and in ‘natural latex’ balloons. Qualatex is one popular company using natural latex for their balloons and claim their balloons degrade as fast as an oak leaf. The problem is, oak leaves are a very resilient leaf and can take many years to degrade. Sure, natural latex plastics degrade faster than synthetic, but along their way to complete degradation, you can find them choking turtles, littering our oceans and blocking the intestines of birds and fish.
The folks over at Balloons Blow… Don’t Let Them Go! have a great information page with tons of photos of balloons debris that found their way in the oceans, rivers and bellies of wildlife. Their main focus is to educate on the destructive effects released balloons have on the environment. They give some great alternatives to symbolic balloon releases.
We think it’s time to rethink balloons as the quintessential party decoration. Just as we’ve stopped using single use plastic for our drinks and for our bags, it’s time we were more thoughtful about our party planning. Some great alternatives that we’ve used include paper lanterns, streamers and garlands.
We would love to hear what you think!