At a park recently while my children enjoyed the play equipment, I spent my time picking up scraps of balloon waste (yes, I know how to party!).
From entire deflated balloons of the partying kind, to teeny scraps from a water bomb fight, the littering was prolific! Given what we know about balloons and their harm to the environment – especially given this park backs on to a waterway – I was shocked that people both still used balloons at an outdoor party (honestly, wind + balloons is an absolute nightmare if nothing else), and that they were so careless in their clean up.
I know I sound like Captain of the Fun Police here, but did you know that in 2020 the CSIRO found balloons to be the most disproportionately deadliest litter item to marine wildlife, particularly seabirds? Balloons can look like food floating on the water’s surface and animals can ingest them or even feed them to their young.
For those of you looking for a better alternative for balloons as party decorations, here are some ideas:
- Bunting, banners and flags – paper decorations can be used more than once if looked after correctly and then recycled at their end of life. If you invest in fabric decorations, particularly in neutral colour that can be adapted to any occasion
- A recycled pallet makes a great backdrop onto which other decorative items can be incorporated, such as fairy lights, flowers etc.
- Botanical decorations – flowers are the obvious go to here, but don’t over look options such as succulents, pine cones, rocks etc.
I know filling a child’s room with balloons is a popular birthday tradition in many families, here are some alternatives you could transition into:
- Lengths of paper chains, paper pom poms (or invest in a set of felt or wool ones that can be used for each family member’s birthday every year)
- You could adopt the Dutch tradition of a specially decorated chair for the birthday person (or even adapt it to decorate their bedroom door)
- A trail of confetti or flower petals on their bed leading to their presents (yes, I am aware how much harder this is to clean than popping a few balloons, but just think of the sea turtles!)
If you still are keen on balloons, here are some tips on how to safely get rid of them:
- Always pop balloons before disposing of them. Cut both the balloon and the string into smaller pieces before throwing them in the trash.
- If you have a lot of balloons to dispose of, consider popping them, bagging them up together, and tying up the bag before throwing them away.
But, remember even if your correctly-packaged balloon waste stays out of our waterways, it is still going to be sitting around in landfill for decades.