Balloons, they’re cute. It’s also cute when they’re released into the air after a celebration, during festivities and what not. But what’s not cute is what this whole practice does to the environment.
It isn’t something most of us sit to think about. But you might have thought about it at least once: what happens to a balloon once you let it go into the air?
Once a helium balloon is released into the air, it keeps going higher till it reaches a point in the atmosphere approximately 10 kilometers, and then shatters into numerous tiny pieces of plastic.
And you must think, “But I’ve never seen any!”
That is because basically they’re really small and can be easily dismissed as other forms of pollution. So when these astray balloons come back down in the form of this small plastic, they contribute to even more pollution.
Balloons return to the land and sea where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, often causing death. They kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages. They can travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.
But there’s also 2 types of material balloons are made of. Latex and mylar.
Although latex balloons are considered bio-degradable, this will take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to decompose and they can wreak a lot of havoc before they do.
In one experiment researchers observed that balloons floating in seawater deteriorated much slower, and even after 12 months, still retained their elasticity.
Mylar balloons are made with Mylar nylon, a material developed for use with the US space program. Balloons made from Mylar are often coated with a metallic finish and are available in a variety of shapes and imprinted designs. These are far less friendly to the environment — they are made from polyester that has been metallicized, making it dirty in both production and disposal.
Despite the type, there’s no denying the danger they cause. From danger to wildlife to the environment, it’s bad. Not to mention the gas filled in these balloons – helium, it itself has a fairly significant ecological footprint.
While it is not there to pollute, it is unsustainable. In fact, we’re running out of easy-to-access helium quickly, because of its extensive use in unnecessary products such as balloons. We need affordable helium for other products we treasure, such as MRI scanners, fiber optics and LCD screens. While we will never truly run out of helium (it is always present in the air) it is important to never be wasteful of any valuable resource.
Balloons are perceived as a celebration of life: The birth of a child, grand openings, fairs, birthdays, get well wishes, and anniversaries, among others. But for marine animals, balloons may mean death, as do other forms of plastic. Balloons are ingested by whales, dolphins, turtles, seals, fish and water-fowl, who innocently believe they are food such as jellyfish or squid. ONCE YOU KNOW BALLOONS BRING DEATH, YOU CAN ACT.
While I don’t mean to be a party pooper here, this is somewhat of a serious issues that needs our attention.