KQB has developed a campaign calling for the prohibition of the release of helium balloons in the state of Queensland because of the threat to wildlife and source of litter forced into waterways. When deflated balloons are floating in waterways they can be ingested by marine life such as turtles, fish and dolphins. Despite being made from biodegradable latex, Balloons floating in the ocean can take up to 12 month to degrade.
Balloons have a devastating impact on wildlife and the environment. Helium balloons climb until the atmosphere and then slowly deflate falling on the land and in the vast oceans. This is the main reason why balloons is clearly considered litter. The Queensland government spends a considerable amount of money collecting a growing number of balloons off beaches, hiking trails and in the middle of the ocean. Balloons are often swallowed by turtles, birds, dolphins and whales getting lodged in the digestive tract and causing, in most of the cases, death. As a consequence, every year millions of animals die around the globe due to ingestion of balloons.
In addition, Helium is the second most abundant element in the planet but this is not a reason to continue wasting tons of this gas every year until our stock is at risk of burning out. Probably, in the future, our grandchildren will not believe that we have used such an important gas to fill balloons. For this reason, our community should not be wasting such a precious gas on non-essential purposes such as party decoration.
Unfortunately, the world’s reserve of helium is fast depleting and most experts are predicting that we will run out of the element within the next 25 to 40 years. Scientist warn that helium is becoming so scarce that its use in balloons has to be limited or stopped. Helium is used mostly in hospitals for keeping magnets cool in MRI scanners and is mixed with oxygen to aid the breathing of the seriously ill and newborn babies. It has been reported that the use of helium resources for filling party balloons constituted up to 10% of global helium consumption in 2009 (Wothers, Royal Institute Christmas lectures, 2012). For this reason, this element should be properly managed and only used for scientific and medical purposes.
The Canadian government no longer allows the release of balloons in public festivities and most of the states of the USA have also banned balloon release. European members have banned or put restriction on the sales and use of helium balloons. In Australia, NSW have also banned the release of the helium balloon in private festivities such as wedding or birthday parties and offenders are penalized with a $200 fine. Based on discussions with a number of governments that have already instigated a ban, it seems that this action has been most successful in preventing the well-known consequences of helium balloons.
Millions of balloons get released into the skies in many celebrations every year. This means that there are millions of deflated balloons littering the ocean floors and countryside throughout Australia and the rest of the world. The impressive visual impact of thousands of balloons being released into the sky may last a few minutes, but the impact on wildlife and the marine environment may last many months with potentially harmful and fatal consequences. Mass releases of balloons are a symbol of wasteful society, while smaller release and balloon races, result in a high number of litter that require different kind of resources to clean it up.
Also, we must therefore look for other ways to conserve this non-renewable resource. Helium cannot be made artificially and it is produced by separating it from natural gas. The scarcity of Helium is a really serious issue and once it is realized in the atmosphere it is gone forever. Helium supplies are limited and we should not be filling balloons with it and sending it into the atmosphere to be wasted when supplies are getting low.
KQB’s campaign have had an important impact, either in discouraging the release of helium balloons in Queensland or at least awareness of issues for consumers to take into account purchasing them. However, KQB aim to ban the release of helium balloons in Queensland with an appropriate penalty to ensure that the use of helium is minimized by citizens and controlled by the Queensland Government.
To get this important purpose, Keep Queensland Beautiful needs the support of our community to gather the most possible signatures in this E-Petition: