Woman's impassioned plea over 'deadly' park act: 'Don't be selfish'

Balloons are the 'most lethal' plastics to many of our native wildlife.

They have long been associated with celebratory occasions but wildlife advocates are pleading with Aussies to ditch party balloons.

A local woman from Ballina, 30 minutes south of Byron Bay, claims she has spent much of her time during the last two weekends picking up "every individual piece of tiny balloons" after families released and left them "strewn" across a park.

Ballina local Jan Brady shared a picture of multi-coloured remnants of balloons she collected.
Ballina local Jan Brady spent time picking up 'tiny' pieces of balloons which were all over the ground at a park near her home over the weekend. Source: Facebook

"There are still pieces I'm spotting in the gardens from last week," Jan Brady told Yahoo News Australia. "The park is a beautiful place for everyone to enjoy, don't be selfish, clean up after yourself please."

How are balloons 'lethal' for wildlife?

Balloons are dangerous to wildlife as they pose both entanglement and ingestion risks.

"When balloons fly away birds can get caught in the strings which will entangle them and make it difficult for them to fly, or get to the surface for air if they're in the water," Shane Cucow from Australian Marine Conservation Society told Yahoo.

balloons on a footpath in the park
Balloons, just a metre from a bin, in the park. Source: Facebook

As balloons can travel a far distance, it is not only wildlife in the area which are put at imminent danger when balloons are released. Balloons are "one of the most lethal plastics for our ocean wildlife".

In 2019 a wildlife group in Victoria shared distressing pictures of a penguin which died after becoming entangled with balloons and ribbon, and in May a cockatoo died in Sydney after being stuck hanging upside down from a a string caught in a tree.

Left, a penguin can be seen caught up in a balloon and ribbon. Right, a cockatoo is seen hanging upside down from a piece of string caught in a tree branch.
Birds are often caught up in balloons and string which can cause severe injury and death. Source: St Kilda Penguins via Josie Jones and Supplied

Balloons being made from "stretchy" materials can easily create "life-threatening blockages" inside animal's bodies, posing a severe threat of suffocation. A research paper from the University of Michigan said seabirds are 32 times more likely to die from balloons than when hard plastics are ingested.

Balloons wrapped up with other plastics found inside a bird (left) and popped balloons look like jellyfish (right).
Balloons are easily ingested by wildlife as they mistake them as a food source. Source: Native ARC Inc and Rubber Jellyfish

Stricter laws required in NSW and ACT

Every other state and territory in the country at least considers deliberate balloon releases to be littering, with the act being illegal in Victoria. Queensland are introducing similar laws on Friday which will render balloon releasing illegal in the state, however, more needs to be done in NSW and ACT.

"The law specifically allows people to release 19 balloons at a time [in NSW and ACT]," Shane explained. "It still occurs semi-regularly in NSW — particularly it often occurs for funerals and wakes or baby showers."

"Unfortunately we know that those balloons will fly a very long way from where they were released and will end up in our oceans... They really need to be phased out quite urgently."

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.