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Recycling balloons sounds like a sustainable option when clearing up after a birthday party, an event in the office, or New Year’s celebrations in a pub. However, balloon recycling isn’t straightforward as there are various types made from different materials. You can’t just chuck them in your household recycling bin or plastic waste bin.
Balloons are a staple of all sorts of celebrations, including birthdays, weddings, and even dull corporate events. Once the party’s over the balloon waste can be problematic. If released into the environment it can harm animals and add to pollution levels should they end up in landfill. Responsible disposal is essential.
The good news is that it’s possible to recycle balloons of certain types. The bad news is that most balloons aren’t yet widely recycled. Discover everything you need to know about balloon recycling, from where to recycle them and sustainable alternatives, in this guide.
Can you recycle balloons?
You can recycle balloons. However, it depends on the type of material they’re made from and where you’re able to get rid of any old balloons. The two main kinds are latex balloons (the common rubbery balloons blown up at parties) and foil/Mylar balloons (often larger balloons inflated with helium).
Whether you can recycle balloons depends on which type you want to get rid of:
- Latex balloons – latex is a kind of rubber that’s similar to plastic but not exactly a type of plastic itself. Latex balloons are biodegradable, but they can take up to eight years and they struggle to break down in landfill due to the conditions. Recycling latex balloons is possible, but it requires specialist machinery, and the recycled materials aren’t as strong. Some companies specialise in recycling latex balloons and use special machinery to shred old latex balloons and recycle them into material used in carpet padding and shoe insoles.
- Foil balloons – also known as Mylar balloons, foil balloons are made from a plastic/nylon synthetic material that is recyclable but is not biodegradable. It’s vital that you recycle foil balloons to avoid them ending up in landfill where they won’t break down. In most cases, you can deflate it, remove any plastic or latex, and recycle the foil with other aluminium often in your household recycling bin. Some shops also provide recycling bins for used Mylar balloons to ensure they’re taken to specialist facilities and recycled.
How to recycle balloons at home
Recycling balloons at home after throwing a birthday party or celebrating any event can be quick and easy or require a bit of effort. It depends on the type of balloon and what materials your local authority recycles. Some households can recycle foil balloons with their domestic bin collections while others cannot.
There are a few ways to recycle balloons from your home in the UK:
- Reusing foil balloons – the most sustainable option is to reuse balloons where possible. You can deflate foil balloons and save them for another time. Simply blow them up and tie a ribbon to them again, which saves the effort, resources, and costs compared to recycling balloons.
- TerraCycle Recycling Points – find your nearest Card Factory and check if they have a TerraCycle recycling bin. Participating stores have TerraCycle bins where you can recycle foil balloons, air walkers, banners, and sashes, as well as plastic packaging for such balloons.
- Household recycling collections – check if your local authority allows balloons or foil in your household recycling bins. If they do then you might be able to recycle balloons in your domestic recycling bins, as long as there are no contaminating materials.
- Recycling centres – some household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) may accept old balloons for recycling. Check with your local authority if there’s a suitable bin at your nearby site for the types of balloons you want to recycle. They should be able to advise on whether you can recycle balloons in the plastic or mixed recycling bins.
How to recycle balloons as a business
Businesses can produce much higher amounts of balloon waste after hosting an event compared to having a birthday party at home. Whether you run a wedding venue, kids activity centre, or have simply thrown an office party, you might be left with hundreds of burst and deflated balloons. Responsible disposal is essential to protect the environment.
You must arrange commercial waste collection of any rubbish your organisation produces by licensed waste carriers. This includes any amount and type of old balloons, whether they’re collected by themselves or alongside other waste. If they’re just foil balloons then you might be able to recycle them with dry mixed recycling collections.
Recycling latex balloons as a business is trickier. At Business Waste we aim to avoid any waste going to landfill. One of our expert team can find a sustainable solution, which may include generating energy from waste, and provide a free quote tailored to your needs. Contact us online or call 0800 211 8390 today.
Sustainable alternatives to balloons
Finding and using sustainable alternatives to balloons is often easier than trying to recycle them. Balloons are bad for the environment as they’re a choking hazard to animals and take many years to degrade (if at all). They can rot in landfill and add to pollution levels if not disposed of properly.
You don’t need balloons at every party. A more environmentally friendly choice is to skip the balloons and opt for some sustainable decorations. Find an eco-friendly alternative to balloons with these ideas:
- Fabric or paper bunting – string up some bunting made from fabric or paper. You can reuse either type, simply wash fabric bunting if it gets dirty. Recycle any paper bunting that gets damaged or can’t be stored.
- Flowers – add a pleasant aroma and some colour with flowers. At the end of the event, they should keep for a few days or weeks and then you can compost them for natural recycling.
- Candle jars – not suitable for kids’ parties but at other events you can reuse glass jars by popping in a tea light or candle. It adds a nice scent and atmosphere to any indoor event.
- Pompoms – paper or fabric pompoms are relatively easy to make and reusable. They add a colourful touch that you can hang anywhere in the event space. If you make them yourself you can create them in any size or colour that suits you.
- Kites – if you want something that goes up high on a string then consider kites for an outdoor event. Either buy some that will be reused or make your own from recyclable materials. You could even make it an activity as part of a child’s party.
Balloon recycling FAQs
Are balloons bad for the environment?
Balloons are bad for the environment. If they’re not recycled or disposed of properly balloons negatively affect the environment in a few ways. Animals and wildlife can choke on balloons, they can end up in waterways and cause blockages, and they take many years to biodegrade (if at all).
Are latex balloons recyclable?
Latex balloons are recyclable but only at places with specialist machinery. You can’t normally recycle latex balloons with your household recycling. Specialist companies that recycle latex balloons shred them into small pieces and use them to create carpet padding and shoe insoles. Latex balloons are biodegradable, but it takes up to eight years in the right conditions.
Are foil balloons recyclable?
Foil balloons are recyclable and reusable. You can deflate foil balloons and blow them up again. As long as any plastic and latex materials are removed you can recycle foil balloons with other types of similar materials – such as aluminium trays. Check with your local authority if you can recycle foil balloons with your household recycling bins.
Are helium balloons recyclable?
Most helium balloons are recyclable as they’re often foil balloons. However, any latex balloons filled with might not be recyclable. Check the type of balloon to see if you can recycle it. Ensure all balloons are completely deflated with no helium remaining in them before sending them for recycling.
Can balloons be biodegradable?
Latex balloons are biodegradable as they’re made from a type of natural rubber. They can break down with organic waste but the process may take up to eight years. They’ll also struggle to biodegrade in landfill due to the other waste and conditions. Foil balloons are not biodegradable and won’t break down at all.
Can you recycle balloon sticks?
Plastic balloon sticks are not recyclable as they’re a type of disposable plastic. However, you can recycle balloon sticks made from paper or card with other materials of the same type. Plastic balloon sticks are now banned in the UK as part of the single-use plastic ban, so any balloon sticks you buy now should be recyclable.
How do you recycle helium balloon tanks?
Recycling helium balloon tanks is simple Normally you can return them to where you bought the helium tank, and they’ll refill or reuse it. You can also take helium balloon tanks to most household waste recycling centres for responsible recycling and disposal. Alternatively, arrange collection by licensed waste carriers to recycle a used helium balloon tank.
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