DO BALLOONS POLLUTE? - Environmental impact

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In general, balloons are often used for birthdays and parties, being able to find both air-inflated plastic balloons and helium balloons, although balloons are also used as entertainment for the little ones, for example, buying them on walks and busy squares. and giving it to the little ones as a temporary toy, as they will soon end up in the trash. How many times have we seen the release of balloons at an event, ending later in nature? This festive item, which may seem harmless, can really make a big impact on the natural environment.

Then, Do balloons pollute? This is a question that many people still wonder about. Therefore, in this interesting article by Green Ecologist, we will talk about the environmental impact and pollution of balloons, as well as aspects related to how much do the balloons pollute, which leads us to think why not use balloons at parties, and the possible alternatives to these.

What are balloons made of

There are different types of balloons, so the composition of these changes depending on the balloon that is being talked about. The balloons are made of the following materials:

  • Polyurethane balloons: balloons made of polyurethane, one of the most common types of plastics, were the first and are still used today.
  • Latex balloons: composed of latex, a material extracted from a tree of the family of euphorbiaceae. This material is extracted from the tree by making a cut in its bark, a liquid that is latex comes out of this cut. To make the balloons, latex is mixed with water and different chemicals to achieve the desired thickness and texture, and at the end, dye is added to give it color. Well, as you know, you can find balloons of all colors.
  • Microfoil or polyamide balloons: are those so striking and bright, increasingly common in decoration. This type of balloon is formed from synthetic polymers, and they are more expensive than latex ones, but the fact that they do not expand when inflated allows all kinds of shapes and designs to be made.

How balloons affect the environment

Before we think about releasing balloons at events, although it may be something beautiful and fun, we should ask ourselves where will these balloons end up? The answer is simple, these balloons will end up in the sea or on land having harmful consequences for water, soil and biodiversity of the area, because let's not forget that there are also chemicals in the composition of the balloons. It must also be taken into account that in these releases the balloons can be a threat to birds; balloons can reach great heights and obstruct the flight paths of birds.

Although the environment in general is affected, the environmental impact of balloons It mainly affects the animals that inhabit the affected ecosystems. These can be confused with food, so they end up ingesting them and as a consequence these can die from suffocation or also, as in the case of turtles, ending up with obstructed intestines, reaching dying of starvation from not being able to eat well or from intoxication. What's more, degrade soil and water, making them lose quality and are harmful. Another big problem is that, sometimes, the balloons that are released always have objects such as letters, threads, plastic sticks, papers, which will also end up polluting the environment.

Here we comment in more detail on Pollution by plastics: causes, consequences and solutions and, more specifically, Plastics in the sea: causes, consequences and solutions.

How long does it take for a balloon to degrade?

Polyurethane balloons take up to 450 years decomposing, being highly dangerous for the environment and its fauna. Like microfoil balloons, they take hundreds of years to decompose.

On the other hand, latex balloons have an average degradation of up to a few years, it all depends on the environmental factors that influence their degradation. For example, in contact with air a latex balloon takes up to 2 or 3 months to degrade, however, if it is in contact with water it takes between 6 months and a few years.

Here we talk more about how long it takes for plastic to degrade and how long it takes for biodegradable plastic to degrade.

Are there biodegradable balloons?

There are biodegradable balloons, they are those that are composed of 100% natural latex and have not been treated with chemicals, since in that case they could not be considered as degradable.

Although 100% natural latex balloons be considered biodegradable balloons, we already mentioned that can take anywhere from a few months to several years to degrade, more than enough time for it to be ingested by an animal and it can also contaminate water and land.

In these other articles we talk about the Biodegradation of plastics and What are biodegradable plastics.

Ecological alternatives to avoid balloons that pollute the environment

A alternative to releasing balloons at parties It really does not exist, since all those materials released into the air, no matter how biodegradable the materials used, in the time they degrade can be a source of pollution and danger to the environment and its biodiversity.

However, to decorate a place where an event is to be held, always remember to use 100% natural latex balloons and once said event is over, collect them and deposit them in the organic waste container of your home. If you end up using polyurethane balloons in the end, at least make sure you pick them up and give them a second use, for example using them to create a work of art. It is always better to give them a second use, to end up in the landfill.

Fortunately, in many areas of the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, where the release of balloons was very frequent, they are being implanted laws prohibiting this activity to end this problem like this.

Finally, we recommend these other Green Ecologist articles about these related topics:

  • How plastic is recycled.
  • +20 tips to avoid plastic contamination.
  • Tips to reduce the use of plastics and packaging.

If you want to read more articles similar to Do balloons pollute?, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

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