Recycling Helium from the Thanksgiving Day Parade

pikachu float photo

Pikachu is full of helium, which the New York Times describes as "a finite and increasingly scarce resource, produced extremely slowly by decaying uranium and thorium." Like anything else, (gas prices anyone?) when it gets scarce and expensive, people start thinking about using it more carefully.

So this year, instead of just releasing it into the air, the are going to try and recover it.

This year, workers from Linde and Macy’s will poke long wands into the chambers of the small- and medium-size balloons, sucking the gas out and into tubes. The wands have bulbous tips, like mushrooms, to keep the balloon fabric from tearing and bunching.

bullwinkle float photo

A press release from helium supplier Linde explains how the helium gets to New York:

Helium used to fill the breathtaking balloons floating over New York City in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade begins its journey in America's heartland. Crude helium is transported by pipeline from its sources in Kansas and Texas to Linde's helium production facility in Otis, Kansas - the world's second largest helium plant.

After the helium is purified in Otis, it is turned into a gas and compressed into two high-pressure tube trailers that are trucked across the country to New York City. On the day before the Parade, Linde and Macy's staff assemble near the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, where workers begin inflating the balloons using a gas filling apparatus Linde has customized for the Macy's Parade.

Early Thanksgiving morning, the balloons are topped off with helium and poised for the Parade. Then, as the balloons exit the Parade route, Macy's employees will determine which balloons will be selected for the helium reclamation effort.

More Lighthearted posts on Helium in TreeHugger:
The Race to Mine the Moon's Helium

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