Balloons Released in to the Sky

Can You Release Balloons at a Funeral?

The loss of a loved one is one of the hardest things we have to go through in our lives. It is an overwhelming time, and it can be a struggle to know what to do or how to honor our loved ones.

A ritual, by definition, is a ceremonial act or action. Often, we look to rituals to commemorate the person we have lost.

In reality, whatever you choose to do may never feel like it’s enough, but a tradition or ritual may be a small comfort in a time of intense grief.

This is why people may consider the ritual of releasing balloons. But, the question is, can you release balloons at a funeral?

The answer is: no, you should not release balloons at a funeral. In fact, you should not release balloons at all, no matter the reason.

There are several different reasons why you shouldn’t, and even some laws prohibiting it. So, why do we do it, and how can we honor our loved ones without the release of balloons?

Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to do so.

The Meaning Behind Releasing Balloons

Why exactly do people release balloons at a funeral? Different people might have different motivations, but the overall thought is to use a balloon release as a spiritual sending off, so to speak.

It is as if releasing a balloon is a tangible way to watch the spirit of your loved one ascend to the heavens, bringing you peace and comfort. And, it gives you a chance to send one last message to them.

Balloon Release Tribute

It might also be used as an inexpensive, simpler version of a white dove or butterfly release. These are other rituals observed at funerals to send off a loved one with a final goodbye.

But, while the soul may ascend to a higher place with these rituals, balloons do not.

Did you know that balloons cannot actually make it to space? Read more about Can Balloons Go to Space? to learn why.

As you watch a balloon float higher and higher, drifting far up in to the atmosphere, it might feel like it can soar to the heavens, the highest of heights.

But, balloons that are released will come back down to Earth. So, why is this a problem? Let’s look at a balloon’s impact on Earth.

Why You Should Not Release Balloons at Funerals

There are a few different reasons why one should not release balloons into the sky intentionally, even with the best of intentions.

The Negative Environmental Impact of Balloons

Latex Balloons and Biodegradability

First, let’s start with the latex balloon. Latex balloons are typically the type of balloon used in any kind of balloon release.

A latex balloon is made from latex, which is a natural resource. It is a milky white liquid that is safely taken from the rubber tree, known as Hevea brasiliensis.

Because latex rubber is an organic material, it is considered biodegradable. But, there is a lot of debate as to whether or not latex balloons are actually environmentally conscious.

Dyes, chemicals, and powders are added throughout the manufacturing process to make and shape colorful latex balloons. So, an argument can be made that they are not 100% natural.

If you are curious about the process, watch this video explaining how balloons are made.

Still, balloon manufacturers and distributors stand by their declaration that latex balloons are safe and will degrade naturally, because the main ingredient used is taken from nature.

But, is it really that simple?

Deflated Balloon in the Environment

One study was conducted back in 1989: A Study of the Effect of Balloon Releases on the Environment. This study concluded that latex balloons degraded at the same rate as an oak leaf and that it was perfectly safe to use latex balloons for balloon releases.

But, it is arguable whether or not latex balloons are truly biodegradable because of the additives introduced in the making of the balloon. Even the balloons marketed as 100% biodegradable may not be.

In fact, there have been more studies conducted since the original study in 1989 refuting the evidence.

One such study, conducted by researchers Dr. Morgan Gilmour and Dr. Jennifer Lavers, observed the degradation of balloons marketed as “100% biodegradable” over a four month period.

What they found was that there was very little change to the balloons, meaning they didn’t break down.

Furthermore, a biodegradability experiment was conducted on latex balloons that drifted in from the sea in Florida. This was done by Balloons Blow, a nonprofit organization working to educate people about the dangers balloon pose to the environment.

The latex balloons were exposed to the harsh weather – both rain and sunshine – of Florida. And, after over seven long years, the balloons still had not completely broken down.

These results seem to directly conflict with the claim that latex balloons are biodegradable.

Foil and Plastic Balloons and Biodegradability

The other types of balloons include: foil and plastic balloons. These types of balloons are not typically used in a balloon release, but some may choose to use them.

Foil balloons are made of a nylon plastic material that is coated with aluminum to give the balloons their shininess.

There is also another type of balloon on the market called the Bubble Balloon. These balloons are made from a transparent plastic material.

Both of these balloons are made from plastic. They are not elastic and can only be inflated to the size they were pre-stretched and cut to.

These plastic materials are synthetic and not organic, thus not biodegradable. Therefore, they will not break down in a natural environment.

What It Means for the Environment

So, what exactly does this all mean for the environment?

Foil and plastic balloons, due to their synthetic composition, will not degrade naturally. Releasing them would only be directly adding to the Earth’s pollution.

And, even if a latex balloon is considered natural, it still can take years to deteriorate. This means that they are out in nature, polluting our land and water and endangering our wildlife for years.

Wildlife can mistake the balloons for food and ingest the balloon litter. The balloons often cause blockages and animals are not able to eat, thus starving to death.

Latex balloons pose the greatest risk, because they are typically smaller. Whether they deflate or break into pieces, they become easier for animals to mistakenly ingest.

And, let’s not forget that balloons often come with strings attached – literally. The string is a huge risk on its own.

Wildlife, on land or sea, can become entangled in it, which often restricts movement. This essentially ensures inevitable death.

Overall, the negative environmental impact balloons have on the environment far outweighs any purpose for releasing balloons, even if it is for honorable reasons.


The contribution to pollution is not the only concern we should have when it comes to foil balloons specifically.

Aside from the long term environmental impact balloons have on the Earth, foil balloons pose a more immediate safety issue.

Foil Balloon in the Sky

Because foil balloons are given a metallic coating for shininess, it makes them conductors of electricity. If they get caught up in power lines, foil balloons can cause power outages and/or fires.

It is incredibly important to weigh down foil balloons, especially outdoors, and not to intentionally release them.

Balloon and Littering Laws

Back in 1986 a stunt known as Balloonfest was organized to release millions of balloons into the air at once in Cleveland, Ohio. This was organized by United Way of Cleveland in hopes to break records and create publicity.

Over 1.4 million balloons were released in a colorful cloud of balloon wonderment. Unfortunately, the balloons came back down and created havoc in the city of Cleveland.

While, you may not be looking to release over one million balloons in honor of your loved one at their funeral, it’s important to note what this event sparked.

Since then, several states and cities have enacted specific laws banning the release of balloons. Check with your state and local laws for more specific information.

Here are just a few examples:

  1. Cleveland: you cannot release 10 or more balloons at a time.
  1. In Delaware, releasing balloons can mean a fine and/or community service.
  1. Hawaii banned all intentional outside balloon releases. Violation is subject to a $500 fine.

You can see that not only do you have to worry about environmental consequences, you also need to worry about legal consequences. And, these are just laws naming balloons specifically.

All states have littering penalties. This is something you should be mindful of, as well, because releasing balloons into the environment is essentially just that: littering.

Since balloon releases are not an option, you might be tempted to do something similar, such as the release of lanterns into the sky.

While this is a beautiful tribute, keep in mind that this too can be considered littering and should be avoided.

Smart Balloon Practices

So, yes, there is some debate as to whether or not latex balloons, which again are the type of balloon commonly used for releases, are biodegradable and safe for the environment.

However, there is one issue that most – scientists, companies, states and cities – can agree on. And, that is that balloons should not be intentionally released, even for a funeral.

Did you know that councils have been created to specifically regulate safe balloon practices and usage all around the world? And, they all promote no balloon releases.

It has become a global initiative. And, many balloon retailers are choosing to comply with and support smart balloon practices by joining these organizations.

Organizations Against Balloon Releases

The Balloon Council was established in 1990 to educate and encourage safe balloon usage in the United States. Their motto is: “Don’t let go: Inflate. Weight. Enjoy.”

The Pro Environment Balloon Alliance (PEBA), originated in Australia in 2017 and now includes the United Kingdom and the United States. It too was created to promote safe balloon practices and encourage positive legislation.

Any members of PEBA stand against intentional balloon releases. Their initiative is: “Don’t Let it Go. Pin it & Bin it!”

Additionally, there is the European Balloon & Party Council (EBPC). This organization also works to educate on balloon standards and safety concerns.

EBPC also stands against balloon releases and has programs in place to educate its members accordingly.

It is important to note that all of these organizations work to promote safe practices, not ban balloons. Balloons are not the enemy here, releasing them is.

Alternatives to Releasing Balloons

Take comfort in knowing that, just because balloons shouldn’t be released into the air, it doesn’t mean you can’t properly honor the memory of your loved one.

There are many different ways you can do this. And, a great way to honor a lost loved one is to do it in a way that is personal and unique to them.

Here are a few examples:

  • If your loved one loved basketball – organize a basketball game in their honor after the funeral.
  • If your loved one was an avid poker player – organize a poker game in which people can gather, play cards, and share stories of your loved one.
  • If your loved one loved flowers – plant a small garden in which everyone can contribute a flower or a plant.
  • If your loved one was a crafter – gather with friends and family and make crafts together, so that everyone has something to cherish in your loved one’s memory.
  • If your loved one loved music – write a special song in their memory and have it performed.
  • If your loved one had a favorite food or meal – prepare this meal to have as part of their goodbye service.

There are so many ways we can honor our lost ones. Here are a few more generic, but special ways we can do this:

  • Blow bubbles – bubbles will float away, not cause damage to the environment, and still symbolize ascension to the heavens.
  • Share notes or letters written as a final goodbye to your loved one.
  • Light candles in their remembrance.
  • Write a message on a stone – keep it and cherish it, or toss it out to sea.

Final Thoughts

As we seek to remember someone, we also must respect the world in which we remain – including the environment and every living thing here.

There are organizations around the world established for the very purpose of prohibiting balloon releases, because they are not something we should be doing.

Honor your loved one with a beautiful tribute. You can even do it with balloons, just don’t release them.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *