The last ten years have seen The Walt Disney Company make significant strides in reducing its environmental impact. Disney has come a long way since embarking on a small solar panel field many years ago. In April 2022, Disney Parks launched Disney Planet Possible alongside their social responsibilities website, pushing the company towards a goal of a happier, healthier planet. One example is the company’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2030. Still, despite all the changes to single-use plastic items like shopping bags and straws, I can’t help but wonder why we are still seeing armfuls of Disney balloons.
Full disclosure, this has been a bugbear of mine for some time now, and I am aware that it might still be an unpopular opinion. Even so, the further we get from complete environmental ignorance, the more I struggle to understand why balloons seem to be the exception to the rule. Now, I know that the market share of these things is mostly with small children that need distraction; however, most of the time, they seem to be a disruption for surrounding guests. Whether you are being bopped in the face by a balloon carelessly wafting behind a moving stroller, or it’s the one helium Mickey head that you can’t seem to get out of your parade photo, they tend to be more of a nuisance than anything else.
Even though some guests do the right thing with them, the real problem with these destructive pockets of plastic is that when released, they raise up into the sky and can travel an outrageous distance before ultimately returning to earth and contributing to harmful plastic waste. Worse still, as we already know, plastics can be deadly for marine life, with the ocean being the unfortunate landing place for many of them. Releasing balloons is actually a practice that is against the law in many countries (including Australia) and can land you a fine. A similar protocol is being adopted in certain US states with bans and restrictions popping up in different areas. In Florida, the law currently allows people to release up to 10 balloons per day, a number that I would be shocked if Disney didn’t exceed on a daily basis; however, this may be able to change with heavier restrictions being proposed.
Of course, the unspoken argument here is that they make for great photos, and that is definitely true. There are some undeniably incredible photos out there that involve single or handfuls of Disney balloons and the magic conveyed in them is not in question. The point is, at what cost? Even if balloons aren’t let go of, the best-case scenario is they end up in the trash can, often not making it out of the park at all. The practice of selling these seems to be so counter-intuitive for a company that is as environmentally forward as Disney. Balloons are already banned in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, along wth Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the Disney Water Parks. Given the distance these things can travel when released, it seems silly to ban them in one area and have them be allowed just down the street. To me, a continued ban in the surrounding Disney parks is the logical next step to enforce this environmentally-friendly action.
All right, you did well to hang out this long. Now’s your chance to let me know what you think. Does the enjoyment of balloons outweigh the environmental impact? Or, are these things an unnecessary part of increased plastic waste?
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.