Helium-filled balloons. We see them at birthdays, weddings and all kinds of celebratory events. There are pictures all over the internet of people releasing a load of them on a special occasion. Sorry to be the one to burst the bubble, but this relatively innocuous act may be illegal in Australia depending on where you live.
Balloon picture from Shutterstock
Releasing balloons makes for a great photo opportunity and it seems harmless enough; the balloons float majestically into the sky, you take your gorgeous photos and then they just disappear into the distance. Except they don’t disappear. Balloons do eventually come back down to earth and can cause environmental damage.
Like other plastic material, balloons can be harmful to sealife and wildlife. Birds and marine animals are prone to swallowing them, which can cause a whole heap of health problems; some of which are potentially fatal.
The law against the release of balloons differ from state to state. New South Wales is the most hardcore state when it comes to releasing balloons. Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, a person or company that causes or permits the intentional “release of 20 or more balloons at or about the same time is guilty of an offence if the balloons are inflated with gas that causes them to rise in the air”.
If you are caught releasing balloons, you will be slapped with a fine and the amount goes up depending on the number of balloons you let fly. If you do it with more than 100 balloons, that’s an aggravated offence.
In Queensland, only one council has banned the release of helium balloons: The Sunshine Coast. Offenders will be fined $200 if they are caught doing so.
While other states have considered similar bans, nothing has been set in stone just yet.
If you are in a state that hasn’t outlawed releasing balloons, do consider the environmental impact before doing so. You don’t want your wedding balloons the carry the guilt of killing native animals when they come back down.