Bursting the myth

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigner Lisa Hills was dismayed to see hundreds of balloons released at Elizabeth Quay on WA Day, which coincided with World Environment Day.

She’s been campaigning to get released balloons classed as litter, which would mean offenders could be fined for letting them drift into the sky.

Ms Hills says burst balloons get washed into drains and then the ocean where they pose a threat to birds, turtles, dolphins and other animals.

• Balloons can be fatal to WA wildlife. File photo by Matthew Dwyer

Starvation

The brightly coloured pieces of latex are mistaken for food and end up blocking intestinal tracts, which leads to agonising starvation.

Manufacturers argue the balloons are biodegradable, but Ms Hills says that’s a long process that can take years, and in the meantime they can do a lot of damage to wildlife.

“I just think it is crazy that you can drop one cigarette on the ground and get a $200 fine, but you can release as many balloons as you want and it’s not classed as littering,” she says.

Recently her campaign received a boost when Cottesloe council banned releasing balloons on public grounds.

But she says, “the win was soon dampened on Monday [June 5], which was World Environment Day, due to BHP Billiton handing out hundreds of latex-filled balloons at the WA Day event at Elizabeth Quay.”

Balloons were visible in the sky from a couple of suburbs away, and Ms Hills says most people are unaware that balloons can land up to 500km away in the sea and damage the environment.

New WA environment minister Stephen Dawson said that, “while the McGowan Labor Government has no current plans to legislate to institute a state-wide ban, it supports efforts to raise public awareness of the unintended consequences of releasing balloons during celebrations.

Deposit scheme

“The McGowan Labor Government is concerned about the impacts of waste, including plastic, on the environment and will work to reduce those impacts, including by introducing a container deposit scheme in WA and supporting local communities who choose to ban the use of plastic bags,” Mr Dawson said.

by DAVID BELL

3 responses to “Bursting the myth

  1. Thank you for publishing this article, and to Ms Hills for raising awareness of the impact of released balloons. How ignorant of BHP to release helium balloons on World Environment Day. It is unbelievable that released balloons are not classed as litter.

  2. Yes, harm to wildlife from balloons is well documented.
    It’s mind boggling releases are not banned and classed as littering in WA.
    Anyone who screams “fun police” and thinks balloons are harmless should spend some time volunteering with seabird and turtle rescue.

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