Environment Balloon manufacturers’ bubble bursts

Balloon manufacturers’ bubble bursts

Marketing claims that latex balloons are biodegradable have been found to be a lot of hot air.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania subjected the balloons to three environmental conditions: freshwater, saltwater and industrial compost.

They looked for changes in mass, strength and composition.

They found very little.

The balloons retained their original shape and size with the composted balloons losing only one to two per cent of their mass over 16 weeks.

“For biodegradability to be meaningful the balloons would need to degrade relatively quickly and consistently, so they were no longer a risk to wildlife or the environment,” said the university’s Dr Morgan Gilmore.

Co-author Dr Jennifer Lavers said the balloons are often marketed as biodegradable because latex is a natural product, but the manufacturing process adds chemicals and compounds.

“Helium-filled balloons can travel for hundreds of kilometres before littering land or water, and they can be lethal to wildlife,” she said.

“We hope that our research will inform the development of latex balloons that degrade within acceptable composting guidelines.”

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