Recent research by The CSIRO has found balloons to be in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife. Balloons that are released or accidentally escape from outdoor events make their way into waterways and eventually into our oceans. With the devastating environmental impacts of balloons becoming increasingly evident, The University of Melbourne is committed to joining organisations across Australia to use eco-friendly alternatives.
What's the issue?
Balloons are part of the plastic problem
The volume of plastic waste in the environment is a major worldwide concern - especially in the marine environment with an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in oceans each year. In Australia, approximately three-quarters of coastal rubbish is plastics.
Balloons, and balloon accessories like plastic clips and ribbons, are not biodegradable. In particular mylar balloons, which are essentially foil-coated plastic, stay in the environment forever. Similar to plastic bags, in sunlight they break down into smaller pieces forming dangerous micro plastics. Latex balloons generally degrade more quickly than other types of plastics but can take years to fully decompose depending on conditions and the materials used in their manufacture.
- Birds and turtles actively select balloons as a source of food. Burst balloons often resemble jellyfish, the natural food sources of many marine species.
- Ingesting balloons, and the clips and strings attached to them, can cause intestinal blockages and results in a slow painful death through starvation.
- Marine animals are unable to breakdown ingested balloons and for turtles, it may also cause floating syndrome. This will cause a turtle to become buoyant, unable to dive for food—making them vulnerable to boat strikes and leading to starvation and dehydration.
- Wildlife, both terrestrial and marine, can also become entangled in balloon ribbons or strings, causing injury or death through drowning, suffocation, or an inability to feed and avoid predators.
- It has also been found that birds are collecting balloons and clips, thinking that it’s food, and feeding it to their young, with deadly effects.
Making a difference
Led by Zoos Victoria’s “When balloons fly, seabirds die” campaign, over 100 organisations have now pledged to not to use balloons outdoors.
The University of Melbourne has joined these leading organisations making a stand to reduce our environmental impact by supporting faculties and departments across all campuses to pledge to replace balloons at events with eco-friendly alternatives.
Make a difference in your area of the University by nominating your faculty/department below.
Please note: this is not a pledge for individual staff members but you are signing up on behalf of your particular team/faculty/department etc.