South Freo resident pushing for balloon ban


A balloon clip is removed from the mouth of a bird. Picture: Ian Hutton
South Freo resident pushing for balloon ban
A balloon clip is removed from the mouth of a bird. Picture: Ian Hutton

BALLOONS at parties and community events could become a thing of the past if a South Fremantle resident’s fight to ban them is successful.

Lisa Hills has joined two other Australian women in petitioning the Federal Government to not only ban the mass release of balloons, but also stop the use of helium to fill them, saying they posed too much of a health issue to wildlife, and even humans, to continue unchecked.

Picking up pieces of popped balloons almost every time she goes out for a walk, Ms Hills said she felt her creation of the Boycott Balloons Fremantle Facebook page was justified when the public began getting behind it.

“Once people started to hear about it, I started to realise how big a problem this issue was,” she said.

“I was being sent articles of animals that had died due to ingestion of a balloon, balloon clip or entanglement from the ribbon.

“Escaped balloons easily end up in the ocean once they burst and when the balloon is ingested by a sea creature and comes into contact with the stomach acids it quickly turns into a sticky, gooey mess, which causes intestinal blockage and results in starvation and a slow painful death.”

“There are many options to use instead of balloons that are friendly to the environment and wildlife, such as bunting, flags, banners or bubbles, or if you are planning to release balloons in the memory of a loved one, plant a tree or place native flowers in the ocean.”

Not just an environmental issue, Ms Hills said there could be unforseen health effects for people also.

With only a small supply of helium on Earth, and with the gas used in important medical equipment such as MRI machines, as well as scientific research, she said there were more important ways the increasingly rare element could be used.

Local governments are already getting behind the initiative, with the Town of Cottesloe banning the use of balloons at council events and deciding in April that they would produce a report on the potential for a by-law to prohibit balloons by October.

City of Fremantle is also taking steps, trialling a set of guidelines that encourage event organisers to use sustainable material and dispose of their waste properly.

Fremantle community development director Marisa Spaziani said the guidelines were introduced last year to improve waste management at events, particularly in regards to plastic and balloon waste on the beachfront.

“The City of Fremantle is a proud One Planet Council and is committed to the use of sustainable materials and waste reduction and encouraging the local community to adopt similar practices,” she said.

“The key to reducing the use of plastic and balloon materials is education and support from the local community.”

Ms Hills, alongside Victoria’s Amy Motherwell and Karen Joynes from New South Wales, are collecting signatures for their petition until October, when they will present it to parliament.

Visit Boycott Balloons Fremantle on Facebook to request a petition signature sheet.

Helium: Not just for funny voices

– Helium is the second most common element in the universe, but on Earth, it is one of the rarest; it makes up only 0.0005 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere.

– It is usually found in natural gas deposits but it is a finite resource; once it is gone, it is gone forever.

– It is a great cooling source, making it vital in many medicinal and technological areas including in MRI machines, LCD screens, rocket fuel tanks and cryogenic research.

– Experts believe Earth is running out of helium, with fears supply could be gone in as little as 20 years, but debate continues about whether practices such as using it to fill balloons should be banned to save what is left for uses that are more important.