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Byron Shire
December 7, 2021

Tweed urged to ban bird-killing balloons

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Luis Feliu

Tweed Shire Council is being urged to address the growing issue of party balloons which are killing and injuring bird and marine life in the region.

Greens Cr Katie Milne wants a strategy to ban the release of plastic and helium balloons as well as a public awareness campaign, in the face of a study showing one in every 20 birds examined by experts had been found to have ingested balloons.

In her notice of motion for Thursday’s monthly council meeting, being held at the Kingscliff Bowls Club, Cr Milne says scientists had found that releasing balloons en masse at ceremonies or funerals ‘kills birds and should be banned’.

She noted recent reports by Hobart’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies of balloons being found in birdlife and marine life, including in one of every 20 birds examined.

Seabirds strangled by wads of balloons, ribbons and strings. Photo pennys-tuppence.blogspot.com
Seabirds strangled by wads of balloons, ribbons and strings. Photo pennys-tuppence.blogspot.com

Cr Milne says council should develop a strategy to ban the release of balloons and consult with local party suppliers to formulate a community education campaign.

‘Even those in the balloon industry say it’s time to end the sight of massed balloons floating away at occasions such as funerals or sports celebrations,’ she said.

Cr Milne quotes a campaigner with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Fiona Maxwell, saying balloons were ‘a huge threat, not only to birds, but turtles and other marine life, it certainly is time for us to come up with less polluting ways to celebrate’.

Dr Jenn Lavers, a biologist at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, according to the councillor, had found balloons in about one in 20 of every seabirds she examined, and detailed the scientist’s shocking experience of the autopsies she performed.

Cr Milne also quoted Maureen Egan, president of the Balloon Artists and Suppliers Association of Australasia, saying she too believed the days of the balloon release ‘are over and done with’.

‘Whatever goes up, comes down, and is going to be litter,’ Mrs Egan said.

Cr Milne said regulation in NSW on balloons was ‘sparse’.

‘NSW is the only state to limit the number of balloons at a release to 19,’ she said.

‘But Mrs Egan, from Wahroonga in Sydney, said this was poorly enforced.

‘She said “you can’t stop a person from doing a release, they will find the balloons and a cylinder (of helium) from a party supplier”, and that “what you’ve got to do is come up with environmental education”’.

Cr Milne said members from the balloon supplier association had created fixed balloon displays, and were developing a campaign to ‘advocate that balloons be popped and disposed of, after use’.

They called it ‘Pin it and bin it’.

The association also said alternatives to mark occasions had been suggested, such as the release of white pigeons, or release of blown bubbles.

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  1. I don’t believe their stats at all. Just another Greenies stunt to kill people’s little pleasures.
    One could write a book about the stuff they want to ban. I’d ban the Greenies!

    • Very easy to make a comment like that, but surely you have not based your response on people need to have fun.. thats not very factual or supports your arguement.
      I am not a “Greenie” but I am always keen to listen to people who have done some research and care for the planet.
      They are not saying do not have fun, they are saying take your waste products home with you and not for others to suffer because they cannot be bothered after they have had their fun.

      Sorry thats just a stereotypical and lazy response to people who have tried to raise awareness….

  2. I’m so glad that someone is finally talking about the damage that balloons do in the environment. As someone who has collected plastic rubbish off our beaches over the last 10 years I have first hand experience of the dreaded balloon. The frustration I feel knowing that people think that releasing these things marks a wonderful moment is considerable. Someone has to clear them up when they fall as rubbish. The most deadly are those that do not wash up but get eaten by our marine wildlife. When they do wash up they stick to rocks & pebbles and can take considerable energy to remove. Perhaps people could consider marking their special moments with something organic that will break down – perhaps some beautiful flowers. Collection and/or donations to charity could mark a moment in a way which could help people and the planet. Balloons should be avoided. Please.

  3. If more than 20 balloons are released illegally, the key is enforcement. This is definitely in the hands of local government, but as the article suggests, councils are weirdly reluctant to take enforcement action, and instead tend to make flaky excuses.

    Other than a council ban, solutions to illegal mass balloon releases include:

    – avoiding balloons altogether (just one can kill marine life.)
    – for councils to issues warning letters, or prosecute.
    – for concerned individuals to complain assertively to the local council when illegal releases are reported in the media, requesting that a warning letter is sent out.
    – for funeral companies to put up notices warning about the ban on more than 20 balloons.
    – for funeral companies to get their customers to sign a legally valid contract stating that they (the customer) will not be releasing more than 20 balloons during the ceremony.
    – for the legislation to be redrafted to make it clear that responsibility ultimately ends up in the hands of the funeral company, rather than a nebulous collective responsibility spread across a crowd of people.

    Katie Milne’s motion deserves our full support.


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