According to the official Times Square New Year's Eve site, more than a ton (that's 2000 lbs. or 907.18474 kg) of confetti is released.
What about the history of the ball that is dropped?
The Ball (yes, it's capitalized) has a diameter of 12 ft, weighs 11,875 lbs, and is in the shape of a geodesic sphere (similar to the large "golf ball" or Spaceship Earth at Disney's Epcot). The current ball was dedicated in 2008 and was intended to remain 400 ft above Times Square throughout the year, thus requiring it to withstand high winds, precipitaiton, and temperature fluctuations.
For 2011, The Ball is lit up with 32,256 LEDs (light emitting diodes) on 672 LED modules, all made by Philips Luxeon Rebel. There are 8,064 LEDs of each color: red, blue, green, and white. When mixed, a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns can be formed.
Each triangle shape on the geodesic sphere has a different design:
The Ball was first dropped in 1907 and has been dropped from the top of One Times Square every year since, except 1942 and 1943 (due to wartime "dimout" of lights in NYC).This year, Waterford Crystal has designed 288 new “Let There Be Love” crystal triangles featuring a romantic pattern that blends a modern cascade of hearts with diamond cutting. 288 triangles are emblazoned with last year's "Let There Be Courage" design of a ribbon medal defining the triumph of courage over adversity; and 1,152 triangles sparkle with the "Let There Be Joy" design of an angel with arms uplifted welcoming the New Year. The remaining 960 triangles are the original "Let There Be Light" design of a stylized radiating sunburst.
The first New Year's Eve ball was made of iron and wood with a 5 ft diameter and a weight of 700 lbs. Unlike our current ball, there were only 100 25-watt light bulbs. In 1955, the iron ball was replaced with an aluminum ball weighing in at 200 lbs and remained in use until the 1980s. From 1981-1988, the ball was replaced by an apple (red light bulbs and a green stem) for the "I Love New York" marketing campaign. After that, the traditional white light-bulbs Ball returned. From 1995 to 1998, the Ball was "upgraded" with " aluminum skin, rhinestones, strobes, and computer controls".
Between 2000 and 2008, The Ball was a smaller version of the current ball: six feet in diameter and a weight of only about 1,070 lbs. After its retirement, this Ball remains the property of the building owners of One Times Square.
The official Times Square New Year's Eve site