Balloons have long been used as a party product. Now we have them used as a parting product. This report by Suzanne Medway (Balloons, Australian Wildlife, Winter, Vol 3/2018) is a wake up call for anyone thinking about how to commemorate the death of a loved one. “What goes up, does come down”, says Suzanne.
Such is the story of our lives: what is born, one day dies. Figuratively speaking, whoever is raised up, or blown up, one day lies down or in the case of a balloon, deflates and returns to earth, as we do. “Balloon releases are becoming more popular at funerals as a visual expression of love for the one who has passed. Releases are normally done at the end of the service to symbolise letting go of the loved one and letting the grieving process begin.”
It is what happens to them when they return that is a serious issue especially for marine life, since so many end up drifting so high that they get blown over the ocean and when they ‘land’ end up becoming death traps for sea creatures.
NSW has banned the mass release of balloons, Queensland has done the same. Other states are yet to come on board. The Australian Wildlife Society is working with the Australian Funeral Directors Association to address the issue. The sooner the better we think. Protection of wildlife comes before humans getting a buzz out of sending party and parting balloon aloft.
There are alternative ways to celebrate a life without doing harm to others and contributing to the death of precious marine life. Check them out on this website: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/balloon-releases-are-killing-animals/
Look for alternatives like:
paper tissue pom poms
candles, kites or pinwheels
flags, banners, streamers or dancing inflatables
flowers or planting a tree in memorial.
If the use of balloons is unavoidable:
keep your balloons indoors to reduce the risk of accidental littering
make sure any outdoor balloons are strongly secured
avoid using non-biodegradable mylar balloons (foil-coated)
ensure all balloons and accessories (like clips and ribbons) end up in the bin.