We cannot think of a celebration without balloons, but these have been proven detrimental to the environment and wildlife in many different ways.
How Balloons Are Harmful To The Environment
Balloons are typically made of latex or foil (also known as Mylar). Natural latex (not the cheap ones) is biodegradable but takes a long time to break down. Mylar is one type of metallic material that is not biodegradable straight out. When any of these balloons are not disposed of correctly, they can end up in the stomach of animals causing them to choke or get entangled.
You might think degradable balloons like the ones which are made from natural latex are the solution. But they do not degrade quickly enough to avoid being ingested by animals. There are incidences all over the places where balloon debris was the reason for the death of wild animals and sea creatures.
Contributes To Plastic Pollution
Ballons are generally not disposed of correctly. A balloon release is a good example of it. We inaugurate outdoor events by releasing balloons filled with helium gas. But we often forget the fact that this has to come down and land we do not know where.
The balloons made of synthetic materials will break down into microplastics when littered. These small little pieces of plastic can easily be ingested by animals polluting the food chain. Synthetic materials also emit gases and chemicals making the situation worse, ultimately contributing to the worldwide problem of plastic pollution.
Not Very Reusable
Balloons are designed to be used one time and then discarded in a trash bin. Latex-made balloons are non-reusable. Foil-made balloons might be used more than one time but they do not look just as good as the first time.
When you buy balloons and trash them after a single use, it adds up to your total waste. This waste is then needed to be recycled via a facility that consumes energy and resource. Some of the resources that are being used by the facilities might not be renewable, meaning you are consuming the earth in an unnecessary manner.
What To Replace Balloons With
Traditional balloons can be replaced with environmentally friendly fabric bunting and lanterns. Where most balloons use latex and synthetic materials, contributing to plastic pollution, fabric decorations are made of natural or recycled materials and can be reused or recycled.
From birthdays and weddings to holidays and special events, fabric bunting and lanterns can add a decorative touch to any event without posing a threat to wildlife or the environment, making them a better choice for those looking to reduce their environmental impact.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all-occasions bunting. You can search on Amazon for your exact requirements. You just need to pay attention to the material that is being used and its end-of-life.
If you are looking for colorful bunting, the company RUBFAC sells pennant-style banners made of non-woven felt fabric that can be recycled. It packs 60 flags and 5 ropes with which you can cover a 14m area. It is suited for indoor decorations but can be used for outdoor events at the cost of a reduced lifespan.
P.S. The product title of RUBFAC on Amazon is misleading. Even though it says 300pcs in the title, it ships 60 pieces.
What Makes Fabric Bunting Sustainable
Fabric bunting is considered more sustainable than balloons as it can be biodegradable or recyclable depending on the materials used. Materials like cotton and linen, which are commonly used in bunting, can break down in the environment naturally.
Not all fabric bunting is biodegradable. When that is the case, proper disposal and care of it can still contribute to its sustainability, extending its lifespan and reducing its impact on the environment. In any case, it is recommended to pay attention to the product description and commit to the one that has a better end-of-life.
Balloons are single-use products. Once a balloon is inflated and used, you cannot do much with it afterward other than dispose of it as trash. They lose their shape so much that they do not look nice as decoration anymore.
Whereas fabric bunting is reusable. Meaning you can decorate an event with bunting and once the event is over, you can put that away in one of your drawers for later. With proper care, they can be used for months and years before needing to be replaced.
When it is time for a replacement, you can either degrade the old ones in your compost bin or dispose of them properly as instructed in the manual depending on their biodegradable and recyclable properties.
Less Impactful To Animals
Traditional balloons, especially when broken, can be ingested by animals causing them injuries or death. Whereas bunting does not break down into smaller pieces and is less likely to get mistaken for food.
Balloons, being super stretchy, can as well entangle the necks or limbs of wild animals, leaving them foodless for days. Bunting does not have this problem as they are made of fabrics that do not stretch as much.
No matter what the case is, the disposal should be at the top of the priority list and activities like balloon release should be avoided since we have no control over where it will land and how some animals will treat them.
The Tradeoffs Of Using Bunting
Normal balloons are cheap to produce. It does not move your wallet that much after you buy hundreds of them. That will not be the case with fabric bunting. They are more difficult to produce driving up the cost a consumer pays.
The availability of natural fabrics and production factories is another reason why bunting is more expensive than synthetic balloons. But if you buy balloons often, investing in slightly-expensive fabric bunting as an eco-friendly alternative will save you some money in the long run.
Balloons are small when it is not inflated. You can pack a lot of balloons in a small bag but you cannot do the same while porting bunting flags.
The effort one has to put into decorating a place with bunting is also more than what it takes with balloons. You will have to assemble the flags into ropes using threading pins before they can be put on a wall.
It would be less of an issue for most people when they factor in the environmental impact and how they might be saving some wild animals from suffering.