What goes up must come down, and balloons are a really good example of items that can travel long distances from their original location and many find their way into the oceans where they have been found to be a threat to marine life and seabirds through entanglement and ingestion.
There are many ways that businesses can market their products that don't have the potential to kill or injure marine life, but in many instances the impact isn't thought of when the decision is made to use promotional balloons.
These balloons were all found in the Daintree National Park beaches after they had landed in the Great Barrier Reef and washed up. All companies have been contacted and made aware of this issue, and asked to review their company policy on promotional activities and balloons.
If you find a promotional balloon, please send us a photo of the item and let us know when and where you found it. Also consider using our Balloon Release Action Guide to notify the company of where you found it, and more environmentally alternatives they could use for promoting their business.
If you are a business using promotional balloons check out these alternatives.
Many people and businesses are starting to do the right thing when it comes to balloons, including some city councils that are banning helium balloons at events. The balloons in the photo here were found on a beach in Tomakin, NSW. The Eurobodalla Shire Council has taken steps to ban the release of helium balloons at Council events and in council-managed reserves (see article below). We congratulate them on taking an important step and hope they will lead other local governments to do the same.
On Wednesday 15 March, Bega Valley Shire Council took up Eurobodalla’s challenge and banned the release of balloons at Council events and on Council reserves on a Mayoral recommendation.
Last year, Council adopted a policy of education about the impact of released balloons, but since then, there has been a lot more information about the impact of released balloons. Mayor Kristy McBain was interested in taking up Eurobodalla’s challenge but The Zoos Victoria’s #bubblesnotballoons was the clincher, and the Mayoral recommendation came soon afterwards.
When we think of marking a special occasion we often think of using balloons. But not many people are aware of the impact that balloons (and attachments such as ribbon and plastic ties) can have when they enter the environment.
Reserch has found that balloons are in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife for both entanglement and ingestion.
The impact balloon litter can have has been well documented in the Flesh-footed Shearwaters on the remote Lord Howe Island. During annual surveys of the colony, balloons and their attachments are one of the most readily identifiable items found inside the stomachs of both adults and chicks. Chicks are mistakenly fed the litter by their parents and can be left too weak to leave the nest. The decline in shearwater numbers on the island is directly linked to the ingestion of this marine debris, with a warning that many seabirds could be facing a similar fate.
Zoos Victoria and Phillip Island Nature Parks have launched “When balloons fly”, alongside researchers at Lord Howe Island, to highlight the impact of balloons on seabirds and other wildlife and call on Australians to make a switch to bubbles at their outdoor events.
You can be part of the solution. Visit zoo.org.au/balloons and join the growing list of people making a promise to make outdoor events wildlife friendly.
Eurobodalla Shire Council has risen to the occasion in minimising the environmental impacts of balloons by banning their release at council events and in council-managed reserves.
Mayor Liz Innes put forward the recommendation to council in a Mayoral Minute at today’s meeting.
Approximately 95 per cent of released balloons burst in the atmosphere and litter small pieces of plastic to the earth. The remaining five per cent do not reach a high enough altitude to burst and instead drift hundreds of kilometres before descending to land or sea.
Cr Innes said balloons caused significant harm to the natural environment, including to marine life.
“I congratulate this council for stepping up and defending our environment,” Cr Innes said. “We’re challenging other councils to follow our lead.
“This proactive approach will ensure that Eurobodalla’s Shire’s natural environment, for which the South Coast is renowned, does not contribute to balloon litter here or across the world.”
While paper lanterns might be seen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to balloon releases they do still have an environmental cost, as litter in the environment, a hazard for wildlife and a potential fire risk. After finding one which showed evidence of having been alight, while walking in bushland in Meelup Regional Park, Tangaroa Blue team member Renee decided to report her find. She contacted the Meelup Regional Park Committee, the City of Busselton and the Department of Parks and Wildlife (the key stakeholders in the area) to raise her concerns.
Within days the City of Busselton responded, regarding the releasing lanterns at Meelup and elsewhere within the City as a potential bushfire source and litter. The outcome of this being lantern releases are now listed as not permitted in all event approvals in the Meelup Regional Park and elsewhere in the City of Busselton. This will also be followed up by story in the local paper to raise further awareness of the issue.