The Sutherland Shire Balloon Library is our latest project at Little Ones Party Hire. The aim is to reduce the waste associated with foil balloons and hopefully educate our community on why they are more expensive than we think.
There are two main types of balloons that are used at birthday parties - latex and mylar
Latex balloons are made with latex which is mixed with dye to give them wonderful colours. A balloon molding is then dipped in a chemical that attracts the latex before being dipped into the, now dyed, latex. The balloons then go through several physical and chemical processes before finally being put through a stress test.
Although latex balloons are mostly advertised as biodegrade, I believe this is greenwashing. 100% natural latex is biodegradable but after the latex is mixed with dyes and chemicals, I wonder how biodegradable it really is. Latex balloons are the balloons most often found in the stomachs of dead animals. Even if they are disposed of correctly, there is the chance that they will land up on a dump or in a waterway and be mistaken for food by animals and marine life.
Mylar balloons, fondly known as foil balloons are made with mylar nylon and coated with a metallic finish. Mylar is a brand made version of Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate. Yes, there is nothing natural about that name. It was originally invented in the 1950s, it is not stretchable, more expensive than latex and EVERLASTING.
IT NEVER BIODEGRADES!
Why we decided to start the Sutherland Shire Balloon Library
I am personally not a fan of balloons. Most of my followers on social media and friends know this as they hear me complain about how harmful and unnecessary, they are. You only need to see one bird or turtle that has been hurt by ingesting a balloon to very quickly decide that they are not worth it.
I have noticed that there are still a lot of people who celebrate with balloons. I can’t do anything about latex balloons, other than educating anyone who is willing to listen. But I can, very slowly, decrease the number of foil balloons thrown away, and hopefully purchased, by starting a community to give these balloons another chance to party.
How the Sutherland Shire Balloon Library works
It is a Facebook group which relies on the community for donations and then offers the donated balloons back to anyone who might be able to use them. We have over 700 members in our community and have managed to give over 100 balloons the opportunity to party again.
If someone is looking to donate balloons, we ask that they drop them off at Little Ones Party Hire. A balloon can be dropped off fully inflated, partially inflated or flat.
When someone is looking to borrow a balloon, they post a comment on the Facebook page. If there is a balloon in the library that is suitable, we will respond. Sometimes, someone from the community will offer a balloon that they have.
We also collect the weights as these can be used more than once. Balloon weights are made from a cement block, wrapped in plastic and then Mylar paper. Often, they also have a plastic tab stuck to them.
How many times can a foil balloon party?
On average, if a balloon is very well looked after, we may get five parties out of it. Although mylar never biodegrades, foil balloons are not manufactured to be used multiple times. They lose their helium/air a little quicker each time they are used until we cannot fully inflate them anymore.
The weights last longer than the balloons but eventually the mylar paper rips and they can no longer be used and must be thrown in the red council bin.
And don’t forget the pretty ribbon that they tie the balloon to the weight with, yes we also can’t reuse them and they need to be thrown in the red council bin.
Can balloons be recycled?
Balloons, mylar or foil cannot be recycled in our yellow council recycling bin in the Sutherland Shire. Terracycle has a paid Dining Disposables and Party Supplies Zero Waste Box. Little Ones Party Hire is currently working with Terracycle to determine whether this Party Supplies Zero Waste Box includes mylar balloons, fortunately, it does include latex. The box costs $202.00. I am not sure of many people who would consider adding that to their party budget.
Although pretty, when you understand the damage these balloons can cause, the waste associated with using them and the cost to recycle them. You really need to ask yourself if it is still worth it?
There are so many beautiful alternatives that can be used in place of balloons at your next celebration, why not consider using one of these?
- Paper chains
- Paper garlands
- Paper flowers
- Paper fans
- Paper pom poms
- Our eco-friendly balloon alternative – Pom Poms
- Blow bubbles