Tasmania has some of the world’s most pristine beaches, but like all coastal regions they are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, which often brings with it plastic debris and other garbage that has floated out to sea.
Yesterday I was walking at one rather secluded beach in Hobart’s east when I spotted a bright pink balloon complete with plastic ribbon entangled in a bush offshore. It had obviously floated there from a nearby party as it was still inflated.
What would happen if that party balloon made its way out into the ocean? Well, according to the CSIRO balloons are the “marine debris item that has the highest chance of killing seabirds if eaten, and 43 percent of short-tailed shearwaters have plastic in their gut.” What’s more, the CSIRO predicts that 95 percent of all seabird species may be ingesting plastic by 2050.
The Tasman Sea is a global hotspot for impacts of marine debris on seabirds.
This is not news, however. I’m sure you have heard about the major issues plastic and other debris cause to our marine life and coastal habitats. Yet, it continues to be a problem, as I witnessed yesterday.
What can we do about it? One effective way to tackle plastics debris in our oceans is to curb and eventually stop plastic use. This is dependant on a lot of factors including effective policy, education, and waste management. However, people’s attitudes and behaviours are the most important because mindful consumption of resources will lead to a plastic-free, and more ecologically sustainable society.
In the meantime, when looking for balloons for the next birthday party, Sustainability Victoria has put together a shortlist of some wildlife-friendly balloon alternatives, which includes bubbles for the kids, and flowers, which can be rehomed for decoration and then composted.
Changing habits is about keeping in the forefront of our minds, the impacts we have on our environment with our daily actions and decisions, and changing those accordingly.
It involves society as a whole rethinking our role in nature, so that we may effectively lessen our ecological impacts.
After all, these impacts are cyclical. Microplastics, plastic debris, and other contaminants are making their way into the food chain, and therefore having wide-ranging impacts on human health.
UPDATE: Website Balloons Blow (nothing to do with this article or its title) is a great resource for the impacts of balloons on wildlife, including education resources and a fantastic list of alternatives https://balloonsblow.org/environmentally-friendly-alternatives/