Action 009: Ditch the birthday balloons

Balloons flyingDate: 09 January
Action: 009
Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL


Action 009 is a simple one, and that is to stop using rubber (see below) or foil balloons as part of your celebrations of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and so on. There are plenty of alternatives that do not do the very serious damage to the environment, wildlife and sea life that traditional balloons do.

They are a consumer-society artificial creation which serves no real purpose, and does a lot of harm.

So please, just don’t buy balloons.  Oh, and if you are given them, don’t release them, pop them safely and put them into the waste system properly.

Read below to learn what materials are used, what harm is done, and what alternatives you could use.

What are party balloons made from and filled with?

Generally what we refer to as rubber balloons are made from latex. They are often referred to “biodegradable” but in fact this is patently no protection and does not justify their use. Latex balloons are the ones most commonly found in the stomachs of dead animals.

Foil balloonsFoil balloons are often also used. These are equally damaging. They are made from a shiny material called mylar. Mylar is not recyclable with your everyday household rubbish and is not biodegradable.

Balloons that float (i.e. are lighter than air) are filled with a gas called helium. Helium is an essential resource for other purposes, including important industries and medical interventions. This waste of resources is atrocious.

Helium is needed to cool the superconducting magnets in MRI scanners at hospitals; there is no substitute for this.

It is also required for fibre optics, sea and space exploration, welding, supersonic wind tunnels, cooling nuclear reactors, life-saving medical procedures and diagnostics, cryogenics, laboratory research, lasers, rare document preservation, breathing ventilators for very ill people, and more.

Once helium is released into the atmosphere it is gone forever; there is no chemical way of manufacturing helium.

The harm done by balloons

Balloons kill farm animals, sea life and wildlife. Many animals mistake latex balloons as food, causing them intestinal blockage and a painful death. Ribbons and string sometimes tied to balloons will last many years and can entangle any animal that comes in contact with it, causing injury and death. The images, for example, at make for harrowing viewing.

Balloons travel many miles once released, and pollute and litter our environment.

Helium depletion is an increasing problem, the use of helium balloons threatens supplies for other, genuinely essential uses, in particular in medical diagnostics and treatment (link to Daily Mirror article). Helium on our planet is a finite, limited resource.


Alternatives can include planting plants and trees, a flower garden, flags, banners, streamers, dancing inflatables (reuseable or genuinely and speedily biodegradable), dancers, kites, garden spinners, vibrant fabrics that dance in the wind, bunting, waves of fabric, windmills and pinwheels, tissue paper pompoms, music, floating flower displays, seed bombs, bubbles (including GIANT bubbles), origami, coloured lights and candles.

Parties can be exciting without balloons!

Memorials can be meaningful without balloons.

Please don’t use them, and please discourage their use by other individuals and by organisations.

(Acknowledgment: This article has drawn heavily on the site and their links, please visit them for further reading)