Balloons are sometimes a barrel of fun for kids but they are also a dangerous hazard for the environment and wildlife, in particular, marine life.
No Balloon Release Australia welcomes Tweed Shire Council’s resolve to ban the release of balloons on land it manages.
The Notice of Motion was brought forward by councillors Rhiannon Brinsmead and James Owen.
Councillor Rhiannon Brinsmead Moved a Motion that: Council revises its existing policies relating to Council licensed events on public land and at Council-owned facilities so that they prohibit the release of helium balloons (effective immediately); and from 1 January 2023, prohibits the use or supply of all types of balloons, where all, or part, of the event occurs outside.
Cr Brinsmead also wanted the changes to be accompanied by an extended public education campaign using both print and social media to educate residents about the damage caused by plastic balloons, including to marine life.
No Balloon Release Australia’s aim is to promote a petition to the Australian Parliament, requesting a ban on the release of any number of balloons, and a ban on the use of helium to inflate party, promotional and ceremonial balloons.
Local government stepping up
Spokesperson for No Balloon Release Australia, Karen Joynes, said in the absence of any action from the NSW government, it is pleasing to see local government step up to protect our environment from the impacts of balloons.
With the long-awaited release of the NSW EPA’s Marine Debris Threat and Risk Assessment (MDTARA) Report, No Balloon Release Australia is once again calling for NSW to totally ban the release of balloons, either in the plastics policy, or the litter act, or preferably both.
Threat and Risk Assessment report
Joynes, said the Threat and Risk Assessment report lists balloons as one of the top 12 marine debris items, and as a statewide priority threat and that the report also demonstrates that the state government has no meaningful programs or policies to manage the threat,
‘NSW currently allows the release of up to 19 balloons to be released, yet, even when an illegal release of 20 or more is reported, no action is taken to enforce the law.
’In the last few weeks alone, there have been two illegal releases that we are aware of, one of 22 balloons and one of over 100 balloons. Both were carried out at funerals, so owing to the circumstances, council officers did not enforce the law.’
Ms Joynes said that another part of Councillor Brinsmead’s motion relating to the use of helium is especially welcome. ‘At two major events, one at AgQuip and another at the University of Sydney Open Day, hundreds of helium balloons were handed out to members of the public, with no regard for the consequences.
Dozens of balloons floating into the atmosphere
‘A source reported “dozens” of balloons floating into the atmosphere in just 20 minutes during the Open Day. A helium tank was used to fill the balloons on-site. We estimate the tank could fill over 700 balloons so who knows how many were released in total? Each and every one of those balloons will return to Earth, somewhere, as litter, and threaten wildlife and farm animals.’
No Balloon Release Australia is lobbying for a national, uniform ban on the release of balloons, and on the sale and use of helium for inflating balloons to stop releases at the source. ‘These events clearly show that the only way to stop balloon releases, to prevent litter and threats to wildlife, is to remove easy access for the public to helium. This would also relieve council compliance officers of trying to enforce an unenforceable law.’
Turtles, shearwaters and albatross die
The MDTARA found entanglement and ingestion pose the highest risk level and impact the most environmental assets. Marine wildlife such as turtles, shearwaters and albatross die or are injured when they mistake balloons as food or become entangled in the ribbon.
‘Not only marine environments and wildlife are affected by balloons. We had a report last week that a bower bird was found dead with its feet entangled in a balloon and ribbon,’ said Ms Joynes. ‘It would be a nasty way to die.
‘It is environmentally irresponsible for NSW to continue allowing up to 19 balloons to be released so Tweed Shire stepping up and joining other councils with similar laws is much appreciated.’