Is It Legal To Release Balloons Into The Air?

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.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


Comments

    Balloons should not be released. They fall into waterways and kill and destroy nature. Please dispose of them responsibly.

    I had never even thought to take this into consideration before. I'll always be mindful of the impact it has now

    Do these laws count if you've physically got a tether attached?

    As technically they're still be released into the air..

      I don't think you understand the word 'release'. It's about control. We don't release animals back into the wild with a tether.

      Last edited 25/08/15 10:38 am

        Yes but where's the line drawn, you could have a few thousand metres of tether....

          Well you'd assume that so long as you eventually reclaimed the balloons and disposed of them properly then you'd be fine! I can't imagine anyone actually bothering to release more than 20 balloons with a few thousand metres of tether each, though.

    You also need to comply with CASA regulations. In Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, Volume 3, Subpart 101.E - Unmanned Free Balloons, Table 101.155-1 it lists approval and notification requirements depending on the number of balloons released and your distance from an aerodrome. Basically, anymore than 100 balloons and you'll have complications.

    So when hundreds of yellow balloons were released in the memory of Stephanie Scott back in April, technically that was an offence. The only catch is that residents released 2-3 balloons each. I wonder if the law specifies 100 per person or 100 per event.

    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/hot-air-balloon-tribute-for-teacher-stephanie-scott-20150412-1mjaze.html

      The organising committee would probably be held responsible

        55 penalty units = $5500
        Unless they were for science. In which case it's all good.

        Not in Queensland. Laws apply to individuals releasing balloons. Dept EHP advise there is no law against 'those who organise'. Releasing balloons has been confirmed as littering offence in Qld - per Waste Act 2011. Government fails to educate anyone though so it is a joke.

    one of my favourites

    http://gizmodo.com/that-time-cleveland-released-1-5-million-balloons-and-c-1565731191

      Came here to post the same! Craziness.

    This. I've always wondered how people can be so oblivious to the fact that these balloons don't just magically stay floating around forever. If somebody took a whole bunch of uninflated balloons and just started throwing them around the place people would be rightly up in arms over littering, but apparently it's ok if they're inflated first.

    Last edited 25/08/15 1:49 pm

    Mark off yet another simple joy for many to be spoiled by environmentalist, nanny state do-gooders.

      Totally agree. They can take my right to launch aerial litter from my cold dead rectum because the Baby Jesus gave me personal dominion of the Earth and all its creatures and the only good turtle is one that's choked to death on a chunk of rubber and volcanoes outdo us for carbon output and it doesn't warm anything up anyway and Greenland was once green. In Jesus' name.

    Hate to be responsible for hurting native animals - but if only there was some way to target balloons at feral ones.
    Perhaps little nooses and carrots to catch feral rabbits and carry them out to sea!
    Perhaps I really need a holiday.

    Last edited 25/08/15 5:11 pm

    I once released a hydrogen filled balloon with a tom thumb attached and after a few metres kapow!
    Best done at night.

    Maybe if you attached a few hundred to your house you would have no fixed address and be beyond any one's jurisdiction.

    Queensland, South Australia & Northern Territory Environment Departments have each confirmed releasing balloons is a littering offence per their laws. Allowing things to blow away is deemed deposit, and deposit other than in an authorised receptacle are relevant phrases in their laws. Public awareness programs are few, which is surprising when polls regularly show in excess of 80% of the public are against helium balloon releases due to the litter and potential harm to wildlife. This article should be updated to reflect the State laws.

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