Did you know marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles can mistake balloons in the environment for food? Every time a balloon is released into the atmosphere it returns to earth and ends up as litter, polluting the planet and potentially harming wildlife.

The Victorian Government introduced new legislation on 1 July 2021 that bans the deliberate release of balloons into the atmosphere, imposing fines ranging from six penalty units ($991) per person to 500 penalty units ($82,610) for a company.

The University of Melbourne encourages faculties and departments across all campuses to pledge to replace balloons at events with alternatives that do not negatively impact the environment.

Make a difference by committing your University area to go balloon-free. By taking the pledge you are committing your club, team, faculty or department to go balloon-free.

Make the pledge now

Two women walk with their backs towards the camera holding two big bunches of balloons. One holds a bunch of colourful balloon, one hold a bunch of clear balloons

Why are balloons such an issue?

Research conducted by the CSIRO has found balloons to be in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife in particular. Balloons that are released or accidentally escape from outdoor events make their way into waterways and oceans.

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.

WWF-Australia estimates that polyurethane balloons take about 450 years to decompose. Biodegradable alternatives are also not a favourable option for the environment. They take 3–4 months to disintegrate completely, depending on whether they fall on land or in water. For example, if they fall into the sea, they can take more than a year to decompose, becoming a significant hazard to the environment and animal life.

Around 30–50 strands of fabric bunting are tied across the main thorough-fair of an event. The sky is blue, the bunting is coloured cyan blue, and tangerine orange. The crowd below the bunting is dressed for summer and there are flowers on archways in the background.

How to celebrate without balloons

Instead of using balloons for outdoor celebrations, it is recommended to consider environmentally and wildlife-friendly methods. Here are some alternatives for eco-friendly celebrations:

  • Fabric bunting: this option allows you to use this decoration on more than one occasion.
  • Bubble blowing: Always make sure that the detergent is environmentally friendly.
  • Plants or seeds: They can be a symbolic gift and at the same time they can be used as decoration.