Balloon bonanza! Why Instagram’s latest trend is an environmental disaster


Balloon bonanza! Why Instagram’s latest trend is an environmental disaster

Flamboyant balloon displays are hugely popular on the photo sharing app. But not everyone is celebrating

Extravagant displays of balloons that are badly disposed of are not just wasteful but destructive.

Last modified on Mon 1 Nov 2021 14.41 EDT

Name: Balloon bonanza.

Age: The rubber balloon was invented by Michael Faraday in 1824, to do experiments with gases in his lab.

Now more commonly associated with celebration than science though, right? Correct. No children’s party is complete without them. A bunch of them tied to a door are a reassuring indication that this is the house where the party is taking place.

Also, people sometimes use them to take drugs, no? Apparently so. Nitrous oxide – AKA laughing gas or nos – is transferred from those silver canisters you see all over the place into balloons and then inhaled by people wanting to feel giddy, giggly or euphoric.

Adults do use balloons more innocently as well, though. They are all over Instagram. It is indeed the latest celebrity trend: an extravagant display of balloons, often in an arch, the bigger and bolder the better, to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, anything really.

Examples please. Made in Chelsea’s Millie Mackintosh, Love Island’s Amy Hart, Harry Kane

The former footballer? Stop it! Harry, the current Tottenham and England striker, and his wife, Katie, hosted their gender reveal party under a tasteful pastel balloon arch.

Don’t tell me, Harry then tried to kick one through the arch but missed from half a yard? Enough, leave him alone.

So anyway, what’s the deal, balloons are in, everyone loves balloons? Actually, not everyone.

Who doesn’t? Seabirds and other wildlife. Also, Danielle Vosburgh, co-founder of Balloons Blow, a group that educates people about the destructive effects released balloons have on animals, people and the environment. Discarded and badly disposed-of balloons don’t just pollute, they can kill animals that ingest them. A 2019 study found that balloon debris is the material most likely to kill marine birds, including albatrosses.

I’m feeling that balloon bubble bursting. “Balloons are a wasteful single-use product that quickly become rubbish,” said Vosburgh.

Balloonacy, you might say. I blame that Nena. Nena?

Ninety-nine red balloons, floating in the summer sky … But hang on, isn’t latex biodegradable? That’s what the balloon industry wants you to think. Truth is, it can take a couple of years. And, if you’re a choking gannet, you don’t have a couple of years …

OK, OK, I’m out, no more balloons. Boo to balloons. Pop! Or just don’t buy them in the first place.

Do say: “This year we will be celebrating by throwing leaves in the air.”

Don’t say: “Oi Harry, you should’ve got a gold one. Then you could say you’d got the balloon d’or.”


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