With the news that Rotterdam and The Hague are looking to ban balloon releases I began to wonder - just how long does it take for a standard latex balloon to biodegrade and why would that prompt a ban?
The industry will tell you that latex is a natural substance which breaks down when left outside, so you may feel justified in having a balloon release to mark a special event, but a little research reveals that's far from the whole story.
The website BalloonsBlow charts the progress of two party balloons left in the open from 2012 to 2017 and yes, you guessed it - they're still recognisable after nearly five years.
Balloon remnants have been found in the stomachs of birds and sea creatures - robbing them of nutrients and the ability digest - but the problems don't end there. The plastic ribbons used to hold the balloons can become tangled around the bodies of larger animals causing pain, disability and even death. And they can take even longer to breakdown. There's no knowing where your balloon may drift to, or which animals it may encounter on its journey from your hand.
Alternatives to balloon releases
So what can we do to give an event an uplifting (no pun intended!) ending or to symbolise our wishes going out into the world?
Bubbles - environmentally friendly bubble mixes can send your wishes and hopes soaring into the sky with all the interest of balloons but without the wildlife price tag. You can also hire equipment for making giant bubbles if you really need to make a splash!
Ribbons - hand held ribbons that stream in the breeze can make a beautiful display and can be used again and again.
Drumming - drumming can be a fantastic way to get everyone involved and instruments can be hired or improvised to make your event more personal.
Seed bombs - if you want your guest to be able to release things why not have them throw a seed bomb? Hand held mixes of nutrient rich compost and wildflower seeds (appropriate to your area) are perfect for establishing meadows or enriching existing habitats.
Wish paper - get your guests to write their hopes and wishes on slips of paper and let them ignite in a central fire - the smoke billows and the dreams rise with them.
When there are so many good alternatives to balloon releases do we really need them have a good time?
Thanks for reading,
Has your council already banned balloon releases?
The Marine Conservation Society keeps a running lists of the UK councils which have already prohibited balloon releases.