Wollongong funeral homes will be cautioned over the release of helium balloons at funeral services, due to growing community concern over their "destructive consequences".
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery used a mayoral minute to highlight the environmentally damaging practice of release lighter-than-air balloons at funerals, and urged other councillors to support him in reminding funeral providers of their responsibilities under the law.
In NSW, it is an offence to release 20 or more balloons at or about the same time if the balloons are inflated with a lighter than air gas.
Additionally, the council's own Single Use Plastic Management Policy states that at events on council controlled or managed land - including cemeteries - participants must refrain from littering and distribution of a range of single use plastics, including balloons.
Cr Bradbery said he had heard of one recent funeral held in southern Wollongong where hundreds of balloons had been released at a young person's funeral, prompting a number of complaints from concerned residents.
"Community concern has escalated from there," he said.
"Ceremonies to commemorate or memorialise the passing of a loved one are very special occasions.
"However, the release of lighter than air gas filled balloons unfortunately have a significant environmental impact and destructive consequences.
"A CSIRO study found that balloons are in the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife - along with plastic bags and bottles.
"It is important that the community is aware of the environmental impact caused by balloons and the legislation regarding their release."
To reinvigorate the issue, the council will write to all local funeral directors requesting that they inform those arranging funerals and memorial ceremonies about the balloon release restrictions.
In these letters, the council will highlight the severe impact balloons and other single use plastics have on the environment, especially marine wildlife.
It will also highlight alternatives to balloon releases, encourage those wishing to commemorate the passing of a loved one to explore environmentally friendly options like bubbles, lighting candles or scattering flower petals.
Councillors unanimously agreed to support the mayor's motion, but Dom Figliomeni did raise concerns about the council's overreach, in taking away "simple pleasures in life".
"I support the objective, I support the principals but I just wonder where we are going to stop," he said.
But Deputy Mayor Tania Brown said she was not worried about an negative implications of stopping balloon releases.
"None of us want to be the fun police, but I don't think any of us should take pleasure in something that is harming marine life," she said.
"This is something positive we can do to preserve and protect marine life."
Paula McGarry, from H. Parsons Funerals Wollongong, said the releasing of lighter than air gas-filled balloons was not a common practice, but was more likely when a child or young person died.
"We are aware of the 19-balloon limit," she said. "We make sure the families who use our services are also aware of the limit. If they choose to do a balloon release then we order them from a balloon supplier.
"When families are told about the limit there is rarely push back, and is not a common practice. Families usually want to do a balloon release if a younger person or child has passed. We usually would have between 6 to 10 balloon releases a year.
"People are probably more aware of the environmental harm balloons can do."
Similarly, Bulli's White Lady Funerals director Donna Thwaite also said had become less common as people had become aware of the environmental hazard balloons posed.
She said families were advised of both the legal limit and environmental issues when requesting a balloon release.
"If there is push back on the limit, we talk to the family and suggest only the immediate family let go of a balloon, or we make other suggestions," she said.
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