Kids everywhere, and a bunch of adults, too, love a water balloon fight. However, we create unnecessary waste with every water-filled and quickly broken balloon splash. For eco-friendly alternatives, we explore your options for reusable water balloons and some of the problems with their single-use counterparts.
Traditional water balloons are made from latex, rubber, nylon, and polychloroprene materials, all of which do not readily biodegrade. It takes over four years for a rubber or latex water balloon to break down. And it has a dangerous environmental impact during the years of its degradation.
There is a high potential risk of harming us and other living organisms in the ecosystem when we release water balloons into the environment during a day of summer fun. These balloons travel fast and far in the wind and get caught easily in trees and plants.
Also, when kids use balloons in a water fight, they break easily, so you have to have a lot of water balloons to keep the fun alive. These traditional water balloons are designed to break on impact, and cleaning them up afterward isn’t so much fun.
Here are some of the environmental impacts of water balloons:
One of the major problems we encounter from disposable balloons is their harm to the wildlife ecosystem. As we use these regular water balloons during playtime, they are thrown around and potentially left out in the environment. Subsequently, they can flow into our waterways and end up in oceans or rivers, near birds, turtles, dolphins, dogs, etc.
Water balloons for kids and adult pool party gifts have bright colors, and animals often mistake them for food and can consume them by mistake when they find their way into our environment. Once ingested, they can fill up an animal's digestional tract, making them believe they are full.
Sadly wildlife can die of starvation because they choose not to eat, thinking they are already full. There are several occasions where researchers discovered water balloon material in animals. For instance, the Wildlife Center of Virginia found two balloons in the ventriculus of a dead bald eaglet.
Also, the rubber bands and strings used to tie water balloons are harmful to animals. They can get tangled up or strangled by these strings. The strings can also cause serious injury that often leads to a life-threatening illness. An example of this is the adult osprey found tangled in balloon strings in August 2016.
Water balloons are plastic waste that disrupts our terrestrial and water ecosystems. Discarded single-use water balloons increase the levels of plastic pollution in the environment. After a fun water balloon fight, balloons can blow into rivers, streams, and oceans.
According to Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup reports, they found almost 300,000 balloons on US beaches from 2008 to 2016. Typically you can’t recycle balloons, and they take years to biodegrade. Eventually, they break into tiny microplastics and leach chemicals into the water and soil fauna.
Another problem water balloons pose is their ability to cause power loss. Balloons made with foil or metallic material conduct electricity.
When these empty balloons blow away and interact with power lines, they can cause power outages. According to Forbes, some power companies claimed balloons caused about 16% of their power outage problems.
Now that we have examined the dangers of latex and plastic water balloons, we know the importance of biodegradable balloons.
If you or the kids want eco-friendly pool water balloons or a splash for your beach water polo, the best options are reusable water balloons without plastic waste.
Here are some examples of reusable water balloons that are harmless to kids and the environment:
Silicone is an excellent material for a reusable water balloon. Although it takes a long time to decompose, its reusable factor makes it eco-friendly. Furthermore, it’s a soft and durable material, making it perfect for all sorts of water-based family activities, such as travel beach toys.
Also, silicone material is recyclable. So, you can just take it to a recycling company instead of disposing of it in the landfill, causing unnecessary waste.
There are multiple brands of silicone water balloons. Kids will most definitely like the Soppycid brand of water balloons (in video) because of their self-sealing magnetic features.
Crochet water balloons are a fun DIY project for an eco-friendly summer. They also make for a great sustainable beach toy or swimming pool accessory for your kids to play with. You simply need crochet yarn and a knitting pin to create different colors and quantities of reusable water balloons.
You can crochet in any size that you want. And even better, learning crochet is one of those parent-child activities that keeps giving, with all sorts of handicraft and DIY possibilities ahead once you’ve learned the basics.
Many stores sell crocheted water balls if you are reluctant to crochet water balls at affordable prices.
Pictured: 12 Reusable Water Balloons (on Etsy)
You can make your own sponge water bombs from sponges and rubber bands. These reusable water balloons soak up just as much water as a regular balloon would. They are a great alternative and really fun too.
During a water balloon fight, all you have to do is soak these sponge water balls in a bucket of water. Your kids will have a blast all throughout summer without you having to stress about picking up broken balloons off your lawn. They also make for a fun and safe activity in kindergarten schools.
You can create cotton water balloons from old towels and washcloths. They are an excellent alternative to latex balloons. You'll need old towels or cloths, needles, thread, fiberfill, scissors, and markers.
First, you'll cut out the ball's pattern according to your preferred size. Then you'll arrange them and sew them together. Once you're done sewing, fill up the space with fiberfill and close it up. You just have to throw it in a bucket of water when it's time to play. These water balls are so easy to maintain, and they're even machine washable.
We can enjoy the summer without damaging our surroundings. Eco-friendly reusable water balloons are the best options, especially if you're not too keen on cleaning up a messy yard after games are over.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.