Balloons are the biggest plastic killers of Australian seabirds, and one of the most lethal types of debris for ocean animals.¹
Mistaken for food or entangling wildlife with their strings, balloons are a colourful menace lurking beneath the waves.
Yet despite the danger, you might be surprised to know that only two states in Australia explicitly outlaw the release of balloons under litter laws. In NSW and the ACT, it is currently legal to release up to 19 helium balloons into the sky.
Even in states like Queensland and Victoria, where the government has stated that releasing balloons is considered litter, it is almost never prosecuted.
That’s why we’re calling for governments to:
- implement an explicit ban on the deliberate release of balloons
- introduce limits on the sale of balloon helium to anyone except a balloon industry professional, who can only sell helium balloons for indoor purposes and who is responsible for education on correct disposal.
With many safer, earth-friendly options for marking important occasions, there’s simply no need to allow balloon releases to continue.
Will you add your name to the petition today – and send a message that ocean lovers demand action?
IMAS/CSIRO. (2019). Balloons the #1 marine debris risk of mortality for seabirds. https://www.imas.utas.edu.au/news/news-items/balloons-the-1-marine-debris-risk-of-mortality-for-seabirds
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Dear Ministers James Griffin, Ingrid Stitt, Meaghan Scanlon, Dr Susan Close, Roger Jaensch, Chris Steel, and Lauren Moss.
I support a ban on helium balloon releases, and I urge you to regulate the sale of helium for balloon inflation to crack down on this dangerous practice.
Balloons are in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife. Mistaken for food or entangling wildlife with their strings, balloons and other soft plastic waste in oceans are 32 times more likely to kill seabirds than hard plastic waste, with a 2019 study indicating ingestion of a single piece has a 20% chance of causing mortality. Among the birds studied, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections or other complications caused by gastrointestinal obstructions.¹
In turtles, inability to break down ingested balloons may also cause floating syndrome, which causes a turtle to become buoyant, unable to dive for food. This leaves them vulnerable to boat strikes, starvation and dehydration.
Even balloons marketed as ‘100% biodegradable’ have been shown not to break down when subjected to tests, persisting in the environment and not meaningfully degrading in freshwater, saltwater or compost.²
While the legal instruments and enforcement mechanisms differ between jurisdictions, helium balloon releases are considered littering in most states and territories of Australia. Yet this is rarely spelled out and made clear to the public.
Further, due to the fact lighter-than-air balloons will travel swiftly from the point of release, these laws are difficult to enforce and instances of penalties being applied are rare.
To prevent the endangerment of wildlife, we call for state and territory governments to:
Ban deliberate balloon releases
To reduce the threat of balloons to ocean wildlife, state and territory governments must reduce uncertainty by introducing explicit laws or amending current laws to explicitly ban balloon releases of any number, with exceptions of hot air balloons or balloons used for scientific purposes.
Where helium balloon release bans and penalties have been made explicit (such as in Queensland and Victoria where advice has been published on government websites), this must be supported by education and awareness programs that releasing balloons is a prohibited act, making clear the penalties that apply.
Ban the sale of helium to the general public and restrict usage of helium balloons
I also support a ban on the sale of helium to the general public for the purposes of balloon inflation. Helium for the purposes of balloon inflation should be restricted to balloon industry professionals who can sell/distribute helium balloons for indoor decorations and displays only.
Balloon industry professionals should be responsible for correct balloon disposal. They should be required to educate their customers about responsible disposal and be obligated to ensure they are informed that releasing balloons is an offense.
We call on you to urgently implement an explicit and well-communicated ban on helium balloon releases, to meet the scale of the crisis in our oceans.
Thank you for your consideration,
Your Name, Postcode.
1. Roman, L., Hardesty, B.D., Hindell, M.A. et al. (2019). A quantitative analysis linking seabird mortality and marine debris ingestion. Sci Rep 9, 3202. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-36585-9
2. Gilmour, M. and Lavers, J. (2020). Latex balloons do not degrade uniformly in freshwater, marine and composting environments. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.123629