Who doesn’t like balloons? They are colorful, light, and bounce around. You probably have memories from childhood where you were so pleased walking around with your shiny colorful balloon.
But what happens to that balloon? Regardless of whether the balloon was released into the air or not, the toxic material balloons are made of ended up somewhere.
As you know, I am very passionate about sustainability and preserving the environment. So I will try to convince you, my dear reader, to stop buying balloons and choose the alternatives. 🙂
Millions of Balloons Pollute the Earth
In 2013 a helium-filled balloon traveled 10,545 miles from the UK to Australia as part of a school Geography project to see where they might land. That one little balloon really can travel so far but what damage can it do on its way?
Balloons and Sky Lanterns are often used for celebrations, to commemorate something, as part of cultural traditions, or for events. But people are only now waking up to the fact that what goes up really does come down and when it does it can have some disastrous consequences.
Dozens of Zoo Animals die in Germany Due to Sky Lanterns
In the early hours of 2020 in Germany, a mother and daughter released five sky lanterns to celebrate the New Year. One of the lanterns set light to part of a zoo where dozens of animals died including five orangutans, two gorillas, a chimpanzee, and several monkeys.
Releasing 1.5 Million Balloons Into The Air in Cleveland in 1986 Caused a Tragedy and Mass Pollution
Balloon Fest ended in tragedy where 1.5 million balloons were released all at once, and the wind carried them all over the city. Two fishermen died because their boat had overturned that day and Coast Guard helicopters couldn’t rescue them because they couldn’t find the vessel beneath the impenetrable mass of balloons.
Not only this but what happened to all of those balloons? I’ve included a YouTube link at the bottom, they all ended up in Canada. It really does make for truly terrifying viewing.
The madness of humans and what we cause to the environment is incomprehensible to me. Why do we need those things? The five-minute fascination?
Why Balloons are Bad for the Environment
Balloons are made from rubber, latex, or more recently foil. Latex is being sold as an “eco” balloon as it biodegrades. This is really a bit of a con. Because although it degrades, it can still take years or even decades and the damage it can do within that time as it comes apart into smaller bits doesn’t make it any less dangerous to both land and marine life.
Foil balloons are not recyclable and are usually filled with helium which is a precious natural gas. It can’t be made and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Helium is used in medical equipment, importantly MRIs. I would much rather it was used for medicine than pointless decorations.
Sky Lanterns are made from paper but apart from the danger of having a flame being sent out with no idea where it will land, they can contain metal, string, and even LED cell battery candles. These will, wherever it lands, cause a risk to wildlife and the environment.
They can be ingested by animals who mistake them for food and face a pointless and painful death. The strings, ribbons, and tags get caught round wings, fins, and necks which leads to panic, horrific injuries, and death through starvation.
We Need Regulations To Limit the Use of Balloons
In the UK there aren’t any actual laws that prevent the release of Balloons or Sky Lanterns (although Wales does). A lot of Councils have made their own policies banning releases from Council owned land.
For organized events which involve lasers, helium toy balloons, sky lanterns, and fireworks require permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). These types of releases can pose a risk to all forms of aircraft.
This is a good start but doesn’t really go far enough to make a significant difference to the thousands of family events held every year.
The RSPCA has an “end sky litter” campaign running that is easy to fill in and send – this goes to your local Council if you would like to partake.
I am very passionate about sustainability and nature, therefore I encourage everyone to take steps, no matter how big or small, towards leading a more sustainable life.
So what are the alternatives to balloons and sky lanterns for memorials and parties if even eco-friendly ones really are no good?
- Jam jar T-lights
- Coloured Ribbon wands
- Paper Bunting
- Paper balloons
- Memorial Plaque
- Natural Confetti (leaves and petals)
- DIY Pinwheels
Read more interesting articles:
- Balloons Cause Litter – Choose The Alternatives
- Buy Less – and Spend More Time Living
- Why I Need Plants in My Home
- New Generations for a Greener World
- 10 Things I Do To Live a More Sustainable Life
- Growing Herbs On My Balcony
- Baking Bread (Sourdough)
- Getting Rid of Clutter
- Cycling will Change Your Life