Everyone loves a party – for a birthday, a graduation or to celebrate a wedding. Often these parties include balloons –sometimes dozens or even hundreds of them. Balloons are bright and colourful, but we rarely think of the harm they can cause to the marine wildlife we love.
Balloons filled with helium fly high in the sky and can travel hundreds of miles from where they are released. But each balloon that takes flight eventually lands somewhere. Often that is the ocean where they float, looking remarkably like jellyfish. Sea animals, like turtles, dolphins and sea birds, mistake them for food. Once eaten, the plastic can choke the animal, or block its stomach, causing pain, starvation and even death. Some animals get entangled in the balloon’s strings and ribbons. Once entangled, they may drown.
Many states across Australia are limiting and banning balloon releases for this very reason. But we don’t need to wait for a ban in NSW – we can stop using balloons right now. They are not essential – there are many other ways to brighten a room and impart a sense of joy or celebration. Here are a few examples:
- For parties: Use coloured lights or a bubble machine instead of balloons. Ask your kids to make decorations from coloured paper, fabric and/or card. Arrange flowers, plants and things from nature or paper streamers or fabric bunting around the room.
- For memorials: Use candles or flowers to create atmosphere. Plant a tree or shrub to memorialise your loved one instead of releasing balloons.
Let’s continue to celebrate all the happy events in life, and sometimes the sad ones too, but let’s just do it without balloons.