Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens bans balloons

Posted on 26 March 2019

The Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort, Johannesburg has taken a stand to ban all balloons from the national garden’s premises.

The reason? Balloons are made from plastic, and seeing that they don’t biodegrade naturally, this South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) garden is taking action to prevent this hazardous material from posing threats to its wildlife and natural habitat.

From Monday 1 April, visitors to the Joburg garden will no longer be able to bring balloons when celebrating birthdays or having a festive function. The ban includes regular balloons that you can blow up yourself, as well as the big shiny ones that are first choice for inflating with helium. Even if you’re using balloons that claim to be biodegradable, they are generally attached to string or plastic sticks, another environmental no-no.

According to the Roodepoort Northsider, the garden curator, Xolelwa Mokoena, was behind the decision to make the change, and cited two important reasons.

‘Firstly, people bring balloons into the Garden but don’t take them back on the way out when they leave,’ Mokoena told the Roodeport Northsider. These abandoned balloons will eventually burst and break into smaller and smaller pieces to become microplastics, she explained.

‘Secondly, the small fragments are not biodegradable and thus pose a threat to the birds and animals in the Garden as they mistake the colourful bits for food.’

As yet, there are no serious penalties for offenders who do bring balloons, deflated or already blown up, into the gardens. Security guards at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens will instead be instructed to prevent visitors with balloons from entering with their balloons. Mokoena said that a proper system with penalties and fines hasn’t yet been implemented, but if caught with a balloon, you’ll have to burst your own bubble to remain inside.

Images from Pixabay

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