Not one to burst your bubble, but …

Creative commons from

Balloons often bring a smile …

to the face of adults as well as children.  Indeed, family birthday parties often seem to ‘lack something’ if balloons aren’t involved, somewhere pinned up to ceilings and sitting room walls; declaring the age of the birthday-boy or girl.

Old Wilf loves balloons too, although I have recently had reason to  consider the impact that balloons have on our wildlife.  Not the ones we put up in our sitting rooms for little Rosie’s 4th birthday party but the helium-filled type that are often released to commemorate weddings, remembrances, outdoor sporting events, opening ceremonies etc.

Balloons are harmless, aren’t they?

Not always, no.  Though there are many fine biodegradable latex balloons with biodegradable cotton string rather than ribbons.  Sadly, they’re not always used at such events as balloon releases.  Here’s a few facts about non-biodegradable balloons …

  • balloons exposed floating in seawater deteriorated much slower than those exposed in air
  • balloons still retained their elasticity even after 12 months of exposure
  • serious concern to marine life, farm animals, birds and other wildlife
  • foil balloons are not biodegradable

Many other facts about balloons can be found on the UK Marine Conservation Society website here.

There are some images, too shocking to show here, displaying the damage that balloons that become litter can cause to birds and animal wildlife.  Information can also be found in Birdguides – A salutary lesson in the perils of inflation, written by Andy Mabbett

So, should we use balloons at all?  …

Of course we can.  There is most definitely a time and place for using balloons.  They can be used indoors, safely obviously, around children and animals.  They can then be popped and disposed of correctly.  It really is a question of … do we want to release helium filled balloons into the skies and potentially harm birds, wildlife, sealife and other animals.

Just a thought …

Until next time.


Follow-up Note:  Please click on the comments link to follow this thread as we were kindly contacted by Andy Mabbett who has clarified this position further, with particular regards to biodegradable latex balloons and how they “… deteriorate more slowly in seawater, and that retain their elasticity even after 12 months (or more) of exposure. They’re still killers. …”


About wolvesparkies

Wilf is the online presence of Wolverhampton Parks and is written by members of the Parks Team. We are passionate about our parks and we love to meet all of the people that it belongs to. After all, we are only the custodians of all of our green and open spaces.
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2 Responses to Not one to burst your bubble, but …

  1. Andy Mabbett says:

    Thank you for the mention, and for bringing attention to this important issue – but, sadly, you have misunderstood. It’s supposedly biodegradable latex balloons which deteriorate more slowly in seawater, and that retain their elasticity even after 12 months (or more) of exposure. They’re still killers. No balloons, latex or otherwise, biodegradable or not, should be released. After all, you wouldn’t scatter burst balloons on the ground, or give them to a child to play with.

    • Andy

      Thank you for making this point clear. Sadly this just highlights the importance of this particular issue with regards to wildlife and your comments clarify the point. There are a number of ways that we can celebrate events that perhaps would’ve been noted using balloons. Some advocate the use of releasing butterflies … but that could be a whole different discussion. I think my personal preference would be to scatter indigenous wild-flower seeds, planting a tree or volunteering time to a cause close to my heart.

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