Balloon Release Bad For Environment?

By | February 20, 2017

I am surprised that we still have schools here in Arkansas that will conduct a balloon release sometime during the year. I know that there are debates in reference to the impact balloons have on wildlife and the environment.

For the past 3 years I have been hiking the Ouachita National Forest here in Arkansas. I have been seeing an increase in the number of balloons I find here in the forest. I have not found any dead wildlife connected with the balloons I have found, but I can see where they could be dangerous. Mainly because of the ribbons or strings that attach to the balloons.

I read that balloons can take years to break down, even the so-called “biodegradable” latex ones. This gives plenty of time for it to travel and encounter many animals that may mistake it for a tasty snack, or accidentally get entangled in it. (Balloons Blow)

The balloon industry says that latex balloons are safe to release – claiming they rise to a height of 5 miles and burst into minuscule pieces that are harmless in the environment.

You can see in my photo below that this balloon did not burst but deflated. You will also notice that this balloon has a message on it (Forgiving myself Be more obedient) and that’s why I think it was part of a balloon release. The word obedient was misspelled so I’m thinking this was released by a young person.

My thoughts are that releasing balloons are against the law, no matter what. Arkansas has laws against littering! Released balloons are littering! I may not find wildlife dead because of a balloon, but I hate having to clean up litter while I am trying to enjoy my hikes in the great outdoors.

So what do you think?

Balloon On A Rock

One Of The Many Balloons I have Found While Hiking

From the New York Times:

Natural latex is biodegradable and environmentally safe, but, according to Rubber Technology, it is treated with ammonia and with tetramethyl thiuram disulfide plus zinc oxide as a preservative against bacterial decomposition. Balloons are usually made with a small amount of plasticizer added. They hardly classify as natural after all that.

In fact, sewage treatment plant operators report that latex is one of several problem materials that are not affected by the biological treatment system. Remember that cocaine smugglers pack the drug in balloons or condoms before they swallow it for transport because it is so nondegradable in the digestive tract. (

Author: Steve Creek

An Arkansas-based wildlife photographer specializing in the wildlife found in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Steve’s images are created from his overwhelming passion for being outdoors with cameras in tow.

4 thoughts on “Balloon Release Bad For Environment?

  1. Rita Robberts

    I totally agree with you Steve. If baloons are let off, the person or persons responsible should understand they need to collect them up.

  2. Cindy Hall

    I agree, too, Steve.
    Another worry are the oceans. Sea life doesn’t know a balloon from an interesting bite of food. Not to mention getting tangled in string, etc.
    I get that they’re beautiful, and it makes people feel good letting them go, but I was at a wedding once where they released butterflies, and I think that is so much more earth friendly.

  3. Becky

    not good either, what i think. It is fun to watch them float away. Where do they go and what do they do to help anybody out? Good information!

  4. Quetzal

    I think it’s common sense that anything that floats off in the air like a baloon is pollution. It angers me tremendously to see remnants of balloons, plastic bags stuck in high branches of trees where they cannot be retrieved and will stay as an eye sore for years to come. The implications of an animal eating the string or getting tangled in it is also another matter.
    Great post.

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