The Downfall of Balloons

"What goes up must come down."

This popular adage applies to many things, but is extra relevant when talking about balloons. Especially balloon pollution.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Popular for parties, celebrations and memorials, balloons are usually made of either mylar or latex. Mylar is made of metallicized polyester, which sounds about as un-eco-friendly as it really is. Latex is touted as the better option, because it is biodegradable.


While latex may be biodegradable, don't be fooled.

The claim is that latex balloons biodegrade in the same amount of time as an oak leaf - which can be between six months and four years, and that's not counting if a balloon is swimming in water, which slows down the process. In that time, balloon material can be ingested by land or sea animals, causing illness or death.

Photo credit: Conserve Wildlife NJ via Balloons Blow

The ribbons tied to balloons pose a threat to animals as well, besides having an amazing ability to get tangled in anything.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shares photos of animals affected by balloon litter.

Did you know?

Balloon releases are against the law in some states (but not many!) If you live in California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee or Virginia; or the cities of Ocean City, Maryland; Louisville, Kentucky; Huntsville, Alabama; San Francisco, California; Nantucket, Massachusetts, or Baltimore, Maryland, you better think of something else for your celebration!

What's the alternative?

If you're decorating for a party or celebration, look for more natural options. Paper-based decorations can be recycled. Natural decorations, such as flowers, greenery or sticks, lend an earthy vibe.

If you're planning a memorial, one of my favorite ideas is using flower seeds instead. After being thrown in the air, the seeds will root where they land, and an area of flowers will grow. Or, plant a tree in a special location. Which, to me, sounds like a better way to remember someone than letting a bunch of balloons loose into the air and cause harm.

Find some other alternatives here.

Consider a balloon's effect on the environment and wildlife next time you have a need for one, and look for a better, more sustainable alternative.

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