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MCC Daily Tribune

Green Tip: Let Go of Using Balloons

For years people have seen balloons as fun, harmless decorations, but they have long-lasting and harmful effects on our environment.  Balloons released into the air can travel for miles and land as litter on beaches, yards, in rivers, lakes, forests and oceans and take a long time (or never) biodegrade, posing risks to birds and other wildlife and creating pollution. 

Balloons are commonly either Mylar (plastic nylon sheets with a metallic covering that will never biodegrade) or latex (liquid rubber mixed with plasticizers and other chemical additives that hinder biodegradation, or synthetic from a petroleum derivative called neoprene). Both types of balloons create hazards in the environment. As latex balloons burst in the atmosphere, they shred into small pieces that can be ingested by turtles, birds, and fish. According to an article in Scientific Reports, latex balloons are deadliest form of marine debris for seabirds. Mylar balloons can float into power lines, causing a spark leading to fires and power outages. 

In 2019, the Detroit Free Press published that 18,000 pieces of balloon waste were found in the Great Lakes based on surveys from annual “Adopt-A-Beach” shoreline cleanups sponsored by Alliance for the Great Lakes. 

Environmentally-friendly alternatives to balloons

  • Flags, banners, streamers, dancing inflatables – weather resistant and reusable 
  • Ribbon dancers – Long ribbons attached on a short wand with the plus that they require people to move around! 
  • Kites/garden spinners – Fabric spinners/kites can last for years. 
  • Bunting – Made from fabric, these are reusable and easily stored. 
  • Pinwheels – Eye-catching and easy to make 
  • Tissue Paper Pompoms – colorful and reusable. 

Ann Penwarden
Sustainability Steering Committee