Is a balloon release littering?

Balloons flying (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Photo by Darwin Bell

Balloons flying (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Julian Vicentini, Reporter

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The City of Fremantle could soon be boycotting helium balloons, with the council altering changes to a 17-year-old law.

If residents and visitors of the City of Fremantle are caught littering gas-filled balloons on local government property, they could face serious infringements.

Currently, under the Litter Act 1979, items become litter when they make contact with water or land, meaning that when balloons are released into the air, it’s not considered a littering offence until they land on the surface.

Lisa Hills, who is the driving force behind the campaign Facebook page ‘Boycott Balloons Fremantle’ has been advocating to completely remove balloons as a recreational, promotional and marketing tool ever since she noticed the issue first-hand.

“I realised it was a problem when it came to me from a local retailer using balloons as a marketing and promotional tool, it was right next to the ocean and I was picking up the balloons on the way to the beach every day on the pavement outside,” she mentioned.

Hills has a passion and a desire to try and keep the environment as clean as possible, and she is continuously fighting to try and provoke the local council to make a serious alteration, defining the act of releasing helium balloons as littering.

Hills currently has over 3,000 people following her Facebook page, who have joined her battle to protect the environment. She has even gained heaps of attention worldwide.

“I started a local petition and then I realised it was actually a bigger issue than what I was dealing with. Then once I started the Facebook page I was having people all over the world contacting me saying can you help stop this mass balloon release,” she added.

To make the plan successful to boycott all helium balloons, the local council told Hills four years ago that she needed as much support from her local community as possible. Even though she has been challenged by some difficult individuals, she is adamant that the community is behind her.

“There has always been the odd person at the beginning who would make quite nasty comments, people have been saying you’re like the fun police and all of that. But to be honest I don’t get any of that anymore because people are now aware of it. The community has been great.

Through her job as a veterinary nurse at the Perth Zoo, Hills has noticed first-hand how humans can severely influence the lives of animals and now she wants to see some massive changes.

“In the ideal world I’d love to boycott all balloons, because I just think we are at this stage now where we know our nation’s in trouble. And to be honest I think it is something that we are not going to come back from,” she said.

One local government that has taken that next step is the Town of Cottesloe, according to an article from the ABC, in late 2017 “Councillors…unanimously supported a motion to outlaw the release of gas-filled balloons which rise into the air”.

The article also mentions that “several councils on the eastern seaboard have already banned the release of balloons, but Cottesloe is the first in Western Australia”.

Other WA councils currently considering a complete ban on balloons include the Cities of Mandurah, Stirling and Cockburn.

Hills is happy to see the environmental safety initiative taken up by the Town of Cottesloe and she hopes her local council of Fremantle can do the same too in the near future.

“At Cottesloe they went that one step further and have actually banned all balloons on their Town of Cottesloe land. So, you can’t have a party down on the grass in Cottesloe and put balloons up which you will still be able to do in Freo.”

With the first council meeting involving the balloon dilemma occurring in May 2018. Hills mentioned that there is a process that has to be undertaken through the planning, finance and legislation committee meetings. Two of those meetings have taken place, as well as two council meetings that soon followed. Through those meeting Hills happily added that “every time it got unanimous votes.”

Through Hills’ ongoing support and drive from herself and the community she hopes she can see the City of Fremantle become helium balloon free.

Lastly, Hills added, “my goal is to just have one sentence added to the littering act, so when you release the balloon from your hand that’s when it is classed as litter.”