Alternatives to Balloons: A Real Reason to Celebrate!

Releasing balloons may seem like a harmless and fun way to celebrate, but as Isaac Newton once said, what goes up must come down! This is no different for balloons that are released into the air, and unfortunately they pose a key threat to the Great Barrier Reef and our oceans as a whole. 

Most balloon releases occur in suburban or rural areas. This is because the assumption that being away from coastal areas will reduce the effect of balloons on the marine environment. The Queensland government states that balloons can travel up to 800 km in distance from their original release point; this causes them to become a major environmental hazard. 

Thankfully, there are a number of alternatives to balloons that can be used for all kinds of celebrations. Check out our Alternatives to Balloons Fact Sheet for some great ideas.

The Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database confirms balloons are regularly found in marine debris collections. Since 2013, the Database has recorded over 128,960 items under the category “Rubber balloons, balls & toys, elastic straps and bands.” It is estimated that 80% (103,168) are actually balloons. 

Volunteer at Cape Kimberley on Eastern Kuku Yalanji Sea Country

Balloons, even latex ones, are not ‘biodegradable’, meaning they hang around in the environment as litter for years, all the while posing a threat to wildlife.”Many sea turtles mistakenly ingest balloon remnants that look like jellyfish. However, it is not only turtles who struggle. Australia is blessed with an amazingly diverse range of seabirds and recent studies have shown that, whilst being less prevalent than common hard plastic remnants, balloon debris is 32 times more likely to result in death to seabirds.

Burst balloons can look a lot like jellyfish to the unsuspecting marine animal, including turtles

What is currently happening around Australia on this issue?

  • The Northern Territory and Western Australia have banned the release of helium balloons.
  • The NSW Environment Protection Agency has recognised the environmental damage resulting from releasing helium filled balloons yet NSW still allows up to 19 balloons to be released at any one time.
  • In Queensland, the release of balloons into the environment is considered littering under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011, however, this does not consider the accidental release of balloons. The Queensland Government has introduced legislation to ban the release of lighter than air balloons and the ban is likely to be put into effect in September 2023.

What needs to be done?

Thankfully, there are a number of alternatives to balloons that can be used for all kinds of celebrations. Check out our Alternatives to Balloons Fact Sheet for some great ideas. 

Tangaroa Blue Foundation, along with our partners No Balloon Release Australia, urges other jurisdictions such as NSW and the ACT to include helium balloon releases in their Plastics Plan and include the release of balloons into the environment as littering under their Waste Reduction and Recycling Act.

Balloons collected during a Tangaroa Blue clean-up

However, even in states where balloon releases are banned under these Acts, releases still occur. This shows that the use of helium for inflating balloons needs to be nationally regulated, to stop releases at the source.

Therefore, we need a uniform national ban on the release of balloons and on the sale and use of helium for inflating balloons to stop releases at the source.

So, how can YOU help preserve Queensland and great barrier reef wildlife? 

Check out and share our ReefClean No Balloon Release Video which displays alternatives to balloons for celebrations and facts about balloon releases.

Download and use our Alternatives to Balloons Fact Sheet and share with friends and family

Sign the petition to ban the release of balloons in NSW and the ACT and regulate the sale of balloon helium 

Keep up to date with legislation changes and ways to take action by following No Balloon Release Australia 

ReefClean is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and delivered by the Tangaroa Blue Foundation

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