At the U2 concert in Sydney the other evening, balloons appeared to drift up through the stadium into the night air, to the strains of Bono belting out Kite.* A friend beside me said, "Well, they're up for a big fine." She was referring to legislation introduced by the NSW Government back in 2000, making it a illegal to knowing release 20 or more more lighter-than-air balloons. I was reminded of the post Lloyd had referred to just the other week, when WWF Canada had used 4,000 balloons to protest the lack of action on global warming. There the balloons were not released, but gathered up after the event and sent off for composting, suggesting the balloon, being made of natural tree rubber, or latex, would biodegrade at the same rate as an oak leaf, i.e., within six months. Which coincidentally is the same information offered on the website of industry body, The Balloon Council, I kid you not!. And the same suggested by one of Australia's leading corporate balloon suppliers, except they use a gum leaf as their measure. Balloon Event go on to say, "While we do know that animals occasionally eat these soft slivers of rubber, the evidence indicates ...... the pieces ultimately pass through the digestive system without harming the animal."
All three sources note studies that infer that intensive research has only found one animal at threat from balloons, at that was a balloon that had not been part of controlled release. The US Balloon Council even have a sort of environmental Code of Conduct for the use of mass balloons. It suggests: Releases must use only 100 percent latex balloons. All attachments must be biodegradable. Never release metallic balloons. Never attach metallic ribbon to helium-filled balloons. Always attach weights to helium-filled balloons to counter lift and prevent accidental release and so on.
* On checking with the NSW EPA that the balloon legislation was still current , they informed me that they believed the U2 balloon release was less than 20, and in any event was hauled back to earth on a tether!
Seems we've had balloons on the brain recently. Just remembered that the other day we also had that pedal powered blimp too.