No big event is complete without balloons, from baby showers to birthdays.

But where once Mum would puff up a multi-coloured pack of five and stick a few to the front door, now it’s not truly considered a party unless you’ve entered through a voluminous balloon arch, with numerous artfully inflated sculptures dotted around.

Celebrities are leading the trend, including Miley Cyrus and Millie Mackintosh, as well as footballers Rio Ferdinand (and Harry Kane). 

Should you have cash to blow, the sky’s the limit, with balloon artists promising to make everything from a bespoke bouquet to a backdrop or bridge. 

Decor for a party like the one Khloe Kardashian recently threw for her daughter True, three, could cost close to £10,000.

There are also cheaper options. John Lewis sells assemble-yourself balloon garlands of 70 to 200-plus balloons, starting at just £20.

It’s no wonder these beautiful, bouncy creations are being pasted all over Instagram.

The bubble bursts quickly if you look beyond the WOW-factor. For just like plastic bags, poorly disposed of balloons are a terrible polluter, responsible for killing animals that ingest or become trapped in them, adding to the burden of plastic waste in landfill and in our oceans, and — in the case of helium-filled balloons — misusing precious gases needed in healthcare.

Balloons are essential for any party. But where once Mum would puff up a multi-coloured pack of five and stick a few to the front door, now it’s not truly considered a party unless you’ve entered through a voluminous balloon arch, with numerous artfully inflated sculptures dotted around (pictured: Amy Hart)

Celebrities are at the forefront of the balloon trend, from Millie Mackintosh and Miley Cyrus to footballers Rio Ferdinand and Harry Kane (pictured)

Celebrities are leading the balloon trend, including Miley Cyrus and Millie Mackintosh, as well as footballers Rio Ferdinand (pictured)

Just like plastic bags, poorly disposed of balloons are a terrible polluter, responsible for killing animals that ingest or become trapped in them, adding to the burden of plastic waste in landfill and in our oceans (pictured: Rylan with a balloon arch)

Poorly disposed of balloons, just like plastic bags, are a terrible polluter. They kill animals that ingest them or become trapped in them. (pictured: Rylan with an arch balloon).

Should you have cash to blow, the sky’s the limit, with balloon artists promising to make everything from a bespoke bouquet to a backdrop or bridge (pictured: Millie Mackintosh)

Should you have cash to blow, the sky’s the limit, with balloon artists promising to make everything from a bespoke bouquet to a backdrop or bridge (pictured: Millie Mackintosh)

‘Balloons are a wasteful single-use product that quickly becomes rubbish,’ says Danielle Vosburgh, co-founder of Balloons Blow, a campaign group fighting to bring awareness to the particular environmental hazard they pose.

‘Whether released to become rubbish far away or used in arches and displays, they all become garbage, which can kill wildlife and adds to already overflowing landfills.

It is alarming to see balloons being used by social media influencers and businesses in an age when many are conscious of the need to reduce our environmental footprint and create less waste.

‘It is puzzling why anyone these days would waste money on such a temporary item.’

Over the past decade, environmentalists have worked to highlight dangers of helium balloons, with initiatives such as the Marine Conservation Society’s Don’t Let Go campaign resulting in more than 80 local authorities across the UK banning the release of helium balloons on their land.

Yet just as headway is made on balloon releases — once popular at memorials or to ‘send a message’ into the sky — along come festoons of balloons in place of floral arrangements.

This new format makes it seem like their environmental threat has been forgotten. Similar to how helium balloons released into space float for miles before settling back to earth as litter after they have been disposed of safely, balloons used to make arches can pose a serious risk to wildlife.

Khloe Kardashian's daughter, True Thompson, is pictured with a mound of balloons on her 3rd birthday, 2021

True Thompson, Khloe Kardashian’s third birthday present, is shown with a mound full of balloons.

Myleene Klass celebrated a baby announcement with a huge balloon arch which she posted across social media

Myleene Class celebrated a baby’s announcement with a large balloon arch that she shared on social media

‘Balloons or balloon fragments were the marine debris most likely to cause mortality, and they killed almost one in five of the seabirds that ingested them,' said marine scientist Lauren Roman (pictured: Leigh-Anne Pinnock)

‘Balloons or balloon fragments were the marine debris most likely to cause mortality, and they killed almost one in five of the seabirds that ingested them,’ said marine scientist Lauren Roman (pictured: Leigh-Anne Pinnock)

A 2019 study found that seabirds are most likely to be killed by balloons. The leading cause of death in thousands of birds was obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract caused by soft plastics like balloons. 

‘Although soft plastics accounted for just 5 per cent of items ingested, they were responsible for more than 40 per cent of the mortalities,’ said marine scientist Lauren Roman, one of the study’s authors.

‘Balloons or balloon fragments were the marine debris most likely to cause mortality, and they killed almost one in five of the seabirds that ingested them.’

Yet surely that’s not a risk if the balloons are disposed of responsibly? In theory, balloons are recyclable and latex balloons are biodegradable. In reality, it’s not nearly that simple.

The majority of recycling services are unlikely to recycle balloons of either the latex or foil variety, while the biodegradable claims of rubber latex balloons are, like so many ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ products, rather overstated.

Still relying on an industry-funded experiment from 1989 — carried out on just six balloons over six weeks — the balloon industry will claim that latex decomposes at the same rate as an oak leaf. 

This is a lengthy process that, depending on the soil conditions, can take several years.

A 2019 study showed that balloons are the plastic debris that is most likely to kill seabirds. Of thousands of birds inspected, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract by soft plastics such as balloons (pictured: Miley Cyrus)

A 2019 study found that seabirds are most likely to be killed by balloons. In a study of thousands of birds, it was found that balloons were the most common cause of death. (Photo: Miley Cyrus). 

The majority of recycling services are unlikely to recycle balloons of either the latex or foil variety, while the biodegradable claims of rubber latex balloons are, like so many ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ products, rather overstated (pictured: Coleen Rooney)

The majority of recycling services are unlikely to recycle balloons of either the latex or foil variety, while the biodegradable claims of rubber latex balloons are, like so many ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ products, rather overstated (pictured: Coleen Rooney)

‘Balloons are a wasteful single-use product that quickly becomes rubbish,’ says Danielle Vosburgh, co-founder of Balloons Blow, a campaign group fighting to bring awareness to the particular environmental hazard they pose (pictured: Philip Schofield)

‘Balloons are a wasteful single-use product that quickly becomes rubbish,’ says Danielle Vosburgh, co-founder of Balloons Blow, a campaign group fighting to bring awareness to the particular environmental hazard they pose (pictured: Philip Schofield)

An oak leaf will not take longer to decay than a latex balloon. An oak leaf is unlikely to choke a hedgehog, even if it were to mistake it for lunch.

To top it all off, helium, used by some balloon architects to lift their ubiquitous arches, is ‘a finite resource better conserved for where it is critically needed’, says Danielle Vosburgh.

Although the gas is not harmful to the environment, it is not sustainable as it is the second most abundant gas in the universe.

It is used to cool MRIs, to treat asthma, emphysema, as well as in technological essentials, such as fibre-optic cables or semiconductor chips.

But don’t feel deflated. This is a great excuse to redecorate, not put a pin in the eco-unfriendly inflatables.

Let’s hang up the bunting to celebrate more sustainable festive flourishes such as pinwheels, pom poms, flags, streamers and banners.