A '100% biodegradable' latex balloon placed in a jar of seawater in June 2015. To date it has not changed in any way at all - unsurprisingly, because biodegradable plastics only break down in industrial composters.... not in the sea.
Baby grey seal right next to balloon detritus
What goes up must come down
Nowadays more and more balloons are being released to celebrate happy occasions, to commemorate deceased loved ones, for commercial promotional purposes or even for charity events.
Sadly though, whatever goes up has to come down, and these balloons too often come down as marine litter in the sea, where they have a devastating environmental impact.
The balloon industry often claims that balloons are harmless as they are made from 'biodegradable' latex.
Although latex is a natural material, balloons made from it take many months or even longer to break down in the environment. This is more than enough time for them to kill and maim wildlife on land and in the sea, especially predators such as turtles, dolphins and birds, which may mistake them for jellyfish and other food.
In any case the ribbons and nozzles used on the balloons are not biodegradable. The world's supply of helium, which is a crucial gas for use in medicine, is also fast being depleted by use in balloons!
Cornwall Council voted in November 2015 to ban balloon and Chinese lantern releases from all council-owned land, and is now gathering evidence to hopefully extend this to a county-wide ban under a public spaces protection order. Balloons can travel huge distances and we find them on every beach clean. If you have any pictures of balloons you find while on the beach please do send them along to us and we can pass them on to the council to add to the evidence being gathered about the harm they are doing.
There are so many great and much more responsible ways of celebrating an event than by sending dangerous litter off into the environment.
Please look at the fact sheets and gallery on the brilliant Balloons Blow site for more information and alternative non-harmful suggestions for celebrating birthdays, weddings, funerals and other events, as well as template letters for writing to organisations planning balloon releases.
Balloons - even supposedly 'biodegradable' ones - unnecessarily kill and maim large numbers of marine animals