Releasing a balloon in Victoria could land you a fine just shy of $1000, under new regulations that came into effect from the start of July.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been given increased powers to stop plastic pollution and protect wildlife.
Individuals can now be fined $991 if caught incorrectly disposing of a plastic balloon, while companies could be fined up to $4956.
For a series of balloon releases, or if taken to court, penalties can rise to $16,522 for an individual and $82,610 for a company.
The EPA is not trying to be the 'party police'
“These new penalties are aimed at deterring the worst offenders not the kids who lose their party balloon. We don’t want to be the party police,” the EPA CEO Lee Miezis said.
“According to CSIRO and Zoos Victoria, balloons lost into the wild and floating in water often look like food to birds and animals which swallow the plastic or get entangled in ribbons.
“We all have a duty to protect the environment, under the new laws. Our response will be proportionate but if the offence is serious, so are the penalties.”
#Balloons are in the top 3 most most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife. When balloons end up in the #ocean, they can be mistaken by wildlife for food. You can help. Pledge to never use balloons outdoors with @ZoosVictoria: https://t.co/ilGAFKecyE#WorldOceansDay pic.twitter.com/R0G8lopvj9
— EPA Victoria (@EPA_Victoria) June 8, 2018
Hundreds of wildlife 'seriously injured' by balloons each year
"Wildlife can be seriously harmed or killed by balloons and their attachments. They can become entangled or ingest balloon litter," the EPA wrote on its website.
"Balloons floating in the water can look like squid or jellyfish. Marine mammals, sea birds and turtles often mistake them for food.
The EPA does allow for people to fly balloons outside as long as you make sure there's no risk of them floating away.
Preventing the release of balloons could save a life
Zoos Victoria Acting Senior Manager of Conservation Campaigns, Darcie Carruthers, said the new legislation is "great news" for wildlife.
“Based on clear, scientific evidence, and also great for people, as we’ve seen so much community passion about this issue," she said.
"Further discouraging the deliberate release of balloons will be a massive help for wildlife, especially birds, preventing harm rather than treating for harm after it has occurred."
According to CSIRO and Zoos Victoria, wildlife can be seriously harmed or killed by balloons and their attachments if they become entangled or ingest balloon litter.
'Release bubbles not balloons'
"We know that balloons and their attachments are the single deadliest litter item when ingested by seabirds," Ms Carruthers explained.
"If we can prevent even a single balloon from entering the marine environment, it could literally save a life," she continued.
"Balloons can be fun, but they don’t belong outdoors."
Instead of releasing balloons, Zoos Victoria encourages blowing bubbles, use paper decorations or flowers as a wildlife friendly alternative.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.