The modern latex balloon – the type that one can purchase either to inflate with air or helium – was invented about 70 years ago in New England, USA. Latex balloons are not made from plastic, but from the milky sap of the rubber tree. When the sap dries over a mould, the "latex balloon" is ready to be inflated.
There are other types of balloons made from other substances, but only latex balloons should be released.
Latex is a 100% natural substance that breaks down in sunlight, air and water. It should never be confused with plastic or other materials. Latex starts to degrade immediately after a balloon is manufactured. First, oxidation occurs (the “cloudy” appearance on the balloon), followed by the breaking down of the molecular structure by natural organisms. This deterioration is quicker in sunshine, heat, windy and moist conditions.
Fully biodegradable balloons
Research shows that latex balloons will biodegrade at about the same rate as a leaf from an oak tree. When released, balloons fly to about 8km, expand, shatter, and fall back to the earth.
Extensive US studies, advice from Australian fishermen, and monitoring and surveys by Government researchers show that balloons are having no adverse effect on wildlife or the environment.
Finally, while a balloon is biodegradable, the ribbon attached to the balloon is not. When advised that a balloon is to be released, a responsible balloon retailer will attach a 100% biodegradable cotton string.
Note: It is Party Plus policy that our stores never attach curling ribbon to balloons intended for release.
This article has been drawn from information publicly available from the Balloon Artists' and Suppliers' Association of Australia and the study conducted by the US National Association of Balloon Artists.