Balloons and the Environment

Here are five VERY important facts to know about balloons and the environment.

#1 - Latex balloons are NOT made from plastic - There's a huge myth out there that your average latex party style balloon is made from plastic and will live in a landfill for centuries. Nothing could be further than the truth. Latex is a biodegradable, naturally occurring material that, while not compostable in our every day sense, will absolutely break down over a relatively short period of time.

While it is true that balloon manufacturers add chemicals into the process to create the balloons (dyes, silicone, preservatives, etc.) which can slow down the break down process, a typical latex balloon won't last longer than a decade in a landfill. Compared to the centurial lifespan of plastic bottles, bags and straws, this time frame feels pretty insignificant.

#2 - Latex balloons are a SUSTAINABLE industry - Raw latex actually comes from rubber tree sap in various jungles around the world. And unlike the lumber industry which cuts down trees in order to produce their materials, latex is acquired by merely making small controlled slices in the bark of the trees, much like how maple syrup is collected. This means that not only are trees not harmed in the process of producing balloons, it means that the balloon industry WANTS to protect the jungles of the world, making us an extremely green industry in general.

#3 - The world is NOT running out of helium - The shortages of helium over the last several years have not been because of supply, but rather commercial interests. A few large gas companies have recently acquired control over most of the world's helium supply, and like oil countries in the Middle East, they now control the flow and price of helium so as to profit the most from it.

Here's a tell-tale sign. If there are helium balloons floating through New York in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, then there is NOT a shortage of helium.

#4 - Helium balloons do NOT deprive the medical industry of helium - Believe it or not, not all helium is the same...And if any one industry is truly depriving MRI machines of helium, it's the microchip industry!

You see, helium is rated on a scale of 1 to 6, with a grade of "6" being pure helium and anything below that contains "impurities" (mostly other gasses like oxygen and nitrogen mixed in). If helium is rated at 6.0 on the scale, that portion is held aside for microchip production (they use helium to weld chips in since it is an inert gas, meaning non-reactive to heat or flame). If the helium is rated between 5.5 and 5.9, then it's put aside from the medical community for use in MRI machines.

And helium that is rated at a score of 4.0 or lower? Yep, that's considered balloon grade helium (aka the lowest degree for commercial use). Yep...balloon grade helium isn't good enough to be used in an MRI machine, so no one's health or quality of life will be effected by your child's birthday party.

And here's a fun fact to add to this. If one WERE to use helium from your standard 11" balloon size to fill an MRI machine, it would take over 1,800,000 of them for ONE unit! THAT'S how much 5.5 or higher grade helium is needed to run ONE machine. And with tens of thousands of MRI machines throughout the world, the math simply doesn't add up that balloons are robbing anyone of medical safety.

#5 - Balloon RELEASES are NOT good for the environment - Balloons enjoyed in a responsible manner are a fun and dare we say "uplifting" way to celebrate a milestone. But releasing helium balloons into the air can cause all kinds of problems. Because balloons don't break down fast enough to be compostable, they return to the earth as litter, plain and simple. On top of that, wildlife can mistake a colorful broken balloon as something to eat, and while most incidents like this result in a "rejected meal", some animals have been known to choke and die on pieces of rubber in their throats.

When it come to foil / mylar balloons, even more problems are possible. These metallic balloons conduct electricity, and should they get caught up in power lines, they can pose both a safety hazard to anyone trying to collect them as well as potentially overload systems and knock out power until repairs can be made.

This is why the balloon industry in 2018 made a collective vow to no longer support the act of releasing balloons into the air for any reason. Whether it's one balloon or 1000, the balloon industry has agreed that nothing good can come from such practices.