While biodegradable helium balloons may seem like a greener alternative, they may not be as environmentally safe as companies claim. Balloons Blow, a non-profit organization, conducted a lengthy experiment to assess the biodegradability of biodegradable and eco-friendly party balloons. Even after being exposed to various elements, the balloons remained intact for seven years and counting.
A 2021 study investigated the fate of latex balloons in freshwater, marine, and composting environments. The balloons retained their original shape and size for 16 weeks, ruling out compostable balloons. Fully biodegrading would take an estimated 15 years or longer, indicating that they will continue to contribute to anthropogenic litter and pose a threat to wildlife.
The balloon industry claims that balloons are biodegradable and safe. However, their 1969 study, which concluded that helium-filled latex balloons would biodegrade at rates similar to that of an oak leaf, was never peer-reviewed and did not consider the danger that balloons pose to wildlife. Latex balloons are made with pigment, coagulants (ammonia), and other chemicals that can harm the environment.
The degradation of balloons is a significant threat to wildlife, as they can entangle and choke animals, and the chemicals used in balloons can harm them. Therefore, eco-conscious consumers should consider eco-friendly alternatives, such as compostable balloons, to minimize the environmental impact of balloon releases and party decorations.