Bad news on the biodegradable balloons. They don’t exist.
Now that that’s out of the way, however, learn why this product is bogus, and what you can use instead so your event still pops.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking a link on this site, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
What makes something biodegradable?
If you’ve seen our post on biodegradable straws, this information will be a refresher.
When something’s degradable that means it will break down, and continue to do so until it’s no longer the original product and has reverted to very simple compounds. These can be things like water or carbon dioxide.
Biodegradable goes a step further. According to Science Learning Hub, “A ‘biodegradable’ object is one that will break down quickly and safely into harmless compounds by using the action of microorganisms.”
If you follow along with our composting posts, you’ll recognize that that’s what we’re going for. Common sense leads us to realize that the more produced a product is, the less likely it is to degrade or biodegrade. This definitely goes for all those plastics that are made to last forever.
What about biodegradable balloons?
Unfortunately, “biodegradable plastic” is still a bit of an oxymoron, even if the company claims to have produced their bioplastics from renewable materials and without fossil fuels.
As this informative article from the non-profit organization Debris Free Oceans states:
“All plastic degrades, but it never disappears. Ocean tides and sunlight break plastic into tinier and tinier pieces – micro plastics – that persist in the environment forever. Beware the difference between degradable and biodegradable. Plastics photo-degrade, but they do not bio-degrade.”
I recommend checking out that link. They also have a really helpful photo of various household items (both plastic and “biodegradable”) at different stages in the decomposition process. Spoiler alert: not many things actually go away.
What Kind of Balloons Are Biodegradable?
Unfortunately, even the biodegradable balloons aren’t really biodegradable. Look, this space is nothing if not judgement-free. So if you really, really, really need to use balloons for an event, our advice is be judicious, and know that for your next event you’re going to need to start planning earlier for ideas that aren’t balloons.
However, if you’ve sworn to make your life more eco-friendly, opting for biodegradable balloons isn’t going to cut it. Need proof? The folks over at The Conversation tried composting biodegradable balloons. We know that in order for something to be biodegradable, it needs to break down quickly and safely. Click over to that article and see that after 16 weeks, even the biodegradable balloons were still completely whole.
The conclusion? “Biodegradable” balloons are complete greenwashing. Don’t shoot the messenger.
How Long Do Biodegradable Balloons Take to Decompose?
Long enough for them to not technically be biodegradable. Again, we’d refer you to this article over at The Conversation. Their experiment with balloons claiming to be biodegradable shows that natural decomposition doesn’t set in for at least 16 weeks, and probably not anytime soon after. And while we really like their detailed photos, they’re not the only ones who’ve come up with this conclusion. Plenty of studies show that balloon manufacturers claiming their product is biodegradable are just tapping into a well-intentioned market for profit. These balloons will outlast us all, just like their traditional counterparts.
What Are Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Biodegradable Balloons?
Now, here’s where a little extra planning pays off. There are lots of alternatives to balloons. Let your creativity run wild. And if you’re not creative like that, we did some leg work for you. Check out these very cute, reusable options:
You may call them paper flags. Either way, bunting is essentially paper or fabric shapes attached to a line and used for decoration. It’s the first suggestion on our list because it’s cute, it’s versatile, and it can be so, so easy. (Of course, thanks to the internet it can also be elaborate and more complicated, but you can choose your own bunting.)
Just search “bunting” in Pinterest, and you’ll have more balloon alternatives than you’ll know what to do with.
Case in point:
2. Tissue Paper Pom Poms
Biodegradable balloons may not be a thing, but biodegradable tissue paper is! Just use this eco-friendly material to add splashes of color and texture.
We found these pom pom garlands from A Sprinkle of Joy especially adorable:
3. Paper Honeycomb Balls
Spherical like a balloon, and incredibly eye-catching. Honeycombs can even be stored flat for reuse, and made in a variety of sizes and colors.
Gathering Beauty has a really nice tutorial for honeycombs like this:
4. Fringe Tissue Paper Backdrop
I understand this is for events, but I can’t say I don’t want to cover a wall in my house with a fringed tissue paper backdrop.
Check out this stunner and instructions from Cultivate Create:
5. String Lights
Nothing creates atmosphere like some cozy lights strung around, do you agree? And best of all, you’ll be able to use them again and again.
If you’ve got an outside soiree planned, I can personally vouch for these solar string lights, as I have them year-round in my backyard:
Alternatively, this indoor/outdoor string light curtain looks magical:
6. Floral Arches
For a naturally beautiful piece, use the ultimate biodegradable item: flowers! A sturdy arch will last a long time, and can be adorned with flowers – real or
7. Paper Fans
While these may conjure thoughts of victorian ladies steeping in humidity, paper fans can also be really cute decorations. And they’re as good as the paper’s print, so they can fit any occasion. These helpful step-by-step instructions are from a wedding inspiration post, but you can easily make these your own. Check out the DIY steps from Evermine.com.
8. Fabric Balloons
With some fabric and rudimentary sewing skills, you can whip up some whimsical decorations like these, featured on Australia’s Baby Donkie:
Summary: Skip the Biodegradable Balloons
That’s the deal. Balloons are not our eco-friend. And biodegradable balloons are just as bad. But no need to fret! There are plenty of alternatives that will spruce up your event and allow you to remain sustainable. Everybody wins.