How to party without plastic: The damage balloons cause to our environment

Bunting

Bunting - Credit: Transition Town Letchworth

We are all looking forward to a return to some sort of normality and I bet there will be some serious celebrating going on when we're allowed. How will you decorate your party space? Most people automatically think of balloons and bunting.

Bunting, if cloth, is reusable and can be home-made from scraps. Balloons, on the other hand, are some sort of plastic or latex and are not recyclable.

Balloons found by Ver Valley Society volunteers in their restoration work around the River Ver in St

Balloons can be a big problem when they are released into the environment - Credit: Ver Valley Society

We get it. Balloons are fun and make great decorations. The release of balloons and sky lanterns can be a spectacular sight.

We hate to burst your bubble - but balloons can be a big problem when they are released into the environment.

Helium balloons are the worst as they can rise high into the winds and get carried far out to sea. Herts County and North Herts District council have both banned the intentional outdoor release of balloons and sky lanterns from land or property they own or control.

So why is a latex balloon, which is made of a natural material, a problem? Marine Conservation Society Pollution Campaigns Officer Emma Cunningham answers this well: "Some people believe that because latex is natural, balloons made of it are harmless once let go. This just isn't the case. Latex may last for up to four years in the marine environment."

Balloon litter is not only a blight on landscapes, waterways, trees and power lines, but balloons and strings can entangle, choke or kill marine life and other animals.

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On land they can get mixed together with grass cut for silage which is then fed to livestock, while plastic pollution in the oceans is affecting the ecosystems that support human life.

It is also worth mentioning that helium is a non-renewable resource which is essential for use in some medical procedures such as MRI scanners, and so avoiding helium balloons will protect future helium supplies.

Plastic Free Letchworth are hoping that the people of Letchworth can come up with an alternative to balloons for decorating party spaces.

If you have an idea that you would like to share through Plastic Free Letchworth, let them know by emailing plasticfreeletchworth@trasnitionletchworth.org

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