Latex Balloons And The Environment
As people are more aware of the effects of products and plastic on our natural world – such as plastic bags, plastic soda can rings and plastic straws – it’s only natural that we are also questioning whether balloons are bad for the environment too.
At Illume Partyware, we are happy that our customers are concerned about the planet, because we are too. As a member of the Pro Environment Balloon Alliance our range of latex balloons has been designed to be environmentally conscious as well as beautiful.
In this article we will look at some of the concerns around the use of latex balloons, our responsibility to the environment when using balloons as well as references to further substantiate the discussion.
Balloon Releases - a cause for concern
The inquiry over whether balloons – specifically latex balloons – can do harm to the environment and animals arose out of concern over balloon releases. You may have been to a parade or an event where hundreds – or even thousands – of helium balloons are released into the sky. As the adage goes, "what comes up, must come down". So where do helium-filled latex balloons end up after they disappear into the vast blue sky?
Released balloons can land anywhere, including on nature reserves or other areas where they can pose a hazard to animals through ingestion or entanglement. Because of the potential harm to wildlife and the effect of litter on the environment, some jurisdictions even legislate to control mass balloon releases.
Research often discusses how helium latex balloons burst, be it relatively intact (5-10%) or shattered into tiny shreds of latex (90-95%). Either way it is littering the environment and as an industry professional and member of the PEBA Illume Partyware does NOT support, condone or facilitate the organised release of balloons.
“Pin it and bin it” - disposing of all rubbish thoughtfully and responsibly will mean a clean environment and allow the 100% biodegradable latex to return to earth as intended.
Latex Balloons come from Rubber Trees
There are two types of decorative balloons: "latex" balloons made from natural rubber, and "foil" or "Mylar" balloons which are made from a metal coated plastic such as polyethylene or nylon.
Here we focus on natural latex balloons, which are made from rubber tree sap with no fillers or substitutes. This material is very different from plastic and man-made "rubber". A ceramic mold is dipped into a coagulant like salt water, then into the liquid rubber which comes from the sap of rubber trees. The latex coagulates and dries on the mold, becoming the balloon, which is removed after being washed and dried.
Because latex balloons are made from a natural product they also degrade as nature intended. These balloons therefore degrade at roughly the same rate as a leaf from an oak tree under similar environmental conditions. The degradation process of latex can be sped up by exposure to sunlight, oxygen/ozone, weather, and bacteria - and plain old age.
The natural latex sap used to make latex balloons comes from a large forest tree called Hevea brasisiensis, originating in Brazil. Sap is collected in a process very similar to how maple syrup is collected from maple trees: Harmless cuts are made into the bark of the tree, and the sap drips into collection buckets.
Latex is an environmentally sustainable product because the trees are not cut down or injured during the latex collection process; moreover, once the tree no longer produces latex sap, its wood is harvested and used as lumber. Because of rubber’s versatility and demand, these tropical rain forest trees are very valuable, highly coveted – and well protected natural resources.
Environmental Effect of Balloons
Balloons are beautiful, fun and exciting - but when used outdoors they can end up in waterways and oceans, harming wildlife. The only safe way to look after our environment is to correctly dispose of all rubbish including balloons.
Three smart balloon practices you can practice are:
Keep balloons weighted - ensure all balloons are tied securely to a weight that will keep them from releasing into the air.
Do not release balloons into the air - released balloons can land anywhere “pin it and bin it”
Dispose of deflated or popped balloons properly - put them in the bin where they can degrade as intended.
Decorating Responsibly with Balloons
Balloon decorating can involve a number of items such as; string, clips, tails, straws, ribbon and weights. Here are a few suggestions for using balloons responsibly:
Keep balloons for indoor celebrations. When your party is indoors balloons are a great way to dress up the room and enhance a party theme. If your event is outdoors ensure balloons are tied securely.
Balloon garlands. One of the reasons people love balloons is because they are so versatile. If you are looking to create a memorable event with balloons, consider a magnificent balloon arch or balloon garland. No helium or nylon ribbon required!
Use statement balloons. Jumbo or confetti balloons make a spectacular statement and can be individually anchored for a sensational display.
Balloon drop. This is when balloons are secured in a net on the ceiling and are made to fall for a dramatic effect. Used indoors they can easily be cleaned up at the end of the party and enjoyed throughout.
Illume Partyware is proud to partner with Qualatex for our latex balloons. No fillers or substitutes are used to make these balloons - they are 100% natural latex, 100% biodegradable and 100% sustainable. The materials come from rubber trees on plantations that are Rainforest Alliance Certified™. Our designer balloons only further enhance our most popular partyware collections so that all our customers can enjoy a complete party theme.
Visit us for party ideas or to talk about how you can confidently and responsibly create your next event and make it unforgettable.