A comment to a recent article on a proposal to ban single-use plastics in the European Union asked "Will balloons be banned as well?"
Coincidentally, my observations on the types of litter in my daily path brought me upon the scene pictured here: a colorful confetti of burst balloons left strewn across the pavement after someone's party. (The plastic bag from the bakery where the cake was bought flapped in the breeze against a fence just outside the frame of this photo.)
The answer to the question about banning balloons under the EU proposal provides less hope than for other types of single-use plastics such as take-out plates and cutlery, straws and stirrers, and the sticks on which balloons are supported when handed out as an advertising gimmick. These single-use plastics with a viable non-plastic alternative are foreseen to be prohibited in all except very special cases (like medical uses) under the EU regulation draft.Unfortunately, because there is no viable substitute for balloons, it is envisioned that they will require labels that advise consumers about the risks of the plastics and how to properly dispose of them. Producers will have to contribute funds to education campaigns to teach consumers the risks as well as having to cover costs of "extended producer responsibility" (which means paying for disposal/take-back/clean-up).
This step will help a bit to get around the powerful balloon council lobby, by forcing the balloon suppliers to own up to the fact that releasing balloons is nothing short of "mass aerial littering" (what could go wrong with that?)
But it will still be up to the consumer to avoid buying balloons in the first place and to find some more ecologically sensitive source of joy and color when demand arises. Here are some ideas for the next time you want to say "no" to balloons:
- For children's parties: try blowing bubbles instead. Be sure to use an eco-friendly detergent for your bubble solution.
- For all ages: Make fun dance ribbons out of wooden dowels and light cotton fabric strips.
- For memorials and ceremonies: release flower buds into a lake or river or throw seed bombs to celebrate the memory of someone you loved or wish to honor.
- For civic events and causes: organize the crowd to spell out a message or gather in the shape of an image representing the cause, then share the visual glory on social media.
- Treat the other senses: instead of a visual celebration, try making some noise. Keep a supply of re-usable drums, recorders, jaw harps, "spoons" to get the mood going. The internet offers a wealth of ideas for how to make instruments as well.
I am sure with a little imagination you can think of many more ways to celebrate without causing harm to fellow residents of Earth. Share your ideas in the comments!