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When The Tour Down Under in Willunga Broke Up With Balloons

Posted by Jonathan Hart on

Environmental concerns regarding latex balloons prompted organisers of this year’s Willunga Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under to use eco alternatives instead.

Willunga Business and Tourism Association Chairman Christina Repetti said the bunting and cardboard jersey’s which lined the streets were about ensuring the town’s heritage was celebrated as well as looking for a more environmental solution other than “just lots of balloons”.

In previous years large bunches of balloons have adorned poles along the main streets of Willunga.

“We’ve won the best dressed town for the stage 5 for a few years in a row and one of the measures in the judging is how environmental your solution is,” Ms Repetti said.

“Here in Willunga we are very environmentally conscious and I think everybody was looking to have less environmental footprint from our decorations, things that we can reuse year in and year out instead of just throwing them away.

“The bunting was all made by a bunch of volunteers, different folks from the Willunga Business and Tourism Association, Country Women’s Association and others who put their hands up.

“The bunting can be used for markets, and festivals and other events that happen here in Willunga.

“For all the jerseys that were posted on the poles those were all painted by local school kids in the afternoon school program and they represented every winner of the last 20 stage 5 Willunga events.”

The move follows a proposal by a Victor Harbor Councillor last week to become the first council in SA to ban the use of gas-filled balloons on land under its control.

Balloons, plastic bags and bottles were the three most harmful pollutants that threaten marine wildlife, according to a 2016 study by the CSIRO.

Councillor Moira Jenkins proposed the ban, saying the council should show “leadership” in the wake of complaints about pollution at the town’s Christmas pageant last month.

“During the pageant there were balloons on floats and some got loose, flying into the air, and a number of residents raised concerns with me about that,” Ms Jenkins said.

“We’re a coastal community and there is a very high risk of those balloons going into the ocean and ending up being eaten by penguins, fish and dolphins.”

We stopped selling balloons in 2014 despite reassurances by the balloon industry that they are eco friendly, biodegradable and harmless to the environment.

We researched quite a lot into whether or not latex balloons were eco friendly only to find there were more questions than there were answers.

We found that when the helium-filled balloons burst in the atmosphere many of them fell to the ocean, where they expand in salt water, looking like jellyfish and getting confused by marine life as something edible, resulting often in death of these beautiful creatures.

The Balloon industry claims they biodegrade at “the rate of an oak leaf”. But those studies are funded by the balloon industry and the science seems questionable.