Are balloons harming the environment?

Drive 11/07/2018
Photo: Unsplash.

Helium-filled balloons have long provided amusement for children, but are they negatively impacting the environment?

Bunnings has stated it will stop giving away balloons to children from January because of concerns raised about their environmental impact.

But balloonologist Pippity Pop believes there is misinformation about how balloons actually affect the environment.  

Ms Pop, who teaches about balloon art, is part of the lobby group Pro Environment Balloon Alliance (PEBA) that promotes balloon education and the correct disposal of balloons.

Ms Pop asserted that balloons are a naturally sourced product, where rubber latex is derived from tree sap. “So they’re not plastic, and once they break down there’s no residual effect on the environment,” she said.

We certainly don’t want to be part of ruining the environment.

“We certainly don’t want to be part of ruining the environment,” she added.

Nevertheless some environmental groups, like not-for-profit Balloons Blow, claim that balloons are “falsely marketed” as biodegradable and are also a waste of helium. According to Environmental Nature Center, latex balloons are considered bio-degradable but will take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to decompose.

Balloons are made from either latex or mylar rubber, with the latter being called the less environmentally friendly of the two materials.

According to Ms Pop, the main problem with balloons is when organisations or events release large numbers of them into the air – called balloon releases. PEBA does not promote balloon releases, as Ms Pop remarks, “because that’s really, in a nutshell, the main problem with balloons”.

Balloon releases of over 20 are prohibited in the Australian state of New South Wales under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Listen to the full interview with Pippity Pop above. 

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