Stirling blow to balloons

• An infant turtle from the movie Rubber Jellyfish, a documentary about the devastating impact balloons have on sea animals.

TURTLE-murdering helium balloons are in the crosshairs of Stirling council, with mayor Mark Irwin calling on the state government to ban balloon releases.

In a letter to WA environment minister Stephen Dawson, he says that under the 1979 Litter Act it’s not littering if you release a balloon into the air, only if it can be proven it fell back to earth.

Stirling council officers discovered that’d be near impossible to enforce when they were looking at their own ban last year, as balloons can travel hundreds of kilometres.

“…for a prosecution to be successful, the city would require infringement officers to witness the actual release of helium balloons and prove that they were intentional releases without negligence.”

Instead the city has embarked on an educational campaign, pointing out the dangers to wildlife and asking people not to release balloons at Stirling reserves or facilities.

In his letter to Mr Dawson, Cr Irwin wrote that balloons can land in seawater, and when they break down they “often resemble jellyfish or squid”.

While it’s only a small proportion of aquatic litter, “turtles and birds will selectively ingest balloons, rubber and hard plastics” with fatal consequences.

While the industry sometimes describes balloons as “biodegradable”, they can take centuries to breakdown.

Mr Dawson’s response, tabled at this week’s council meeting, said “the state government shares your concern about the negative environmental impacts of plastic waste, including helium balloons”.

He said as part of premier Mark McGowan’s anti-plastic drive he was “considering the most effective ways of taking stronger action on a range of single-use plastic products, including actions to discourage the release of helium balloons,” and anyone wanting to be consulted could register via http://www.dwer.wa.gov.au/node/79

by DAVID BELL

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