Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras chief executive Terese Casu said the plan was to make the event completely carbon neutral within five years.
“We used to bring in about three tonnes of glitter from China,” Ms Casu said. “That goes in the gutter, it ends up in our oceans, our fish eat it, you find it in crab shells and oysters. We must be responsible and make really urgent changes.”
Glitter is a microplastic (plastic less than five millimetres in length), which causes harm to marine life that mistake it for food. As a result, humans can ingest the microplastics via seafood and even tap water. Balloons also cause major problems, with the attached strings strangling birds, while other animals and sea life often mistake the shape of a burst balloon for jellyfish.
In the festival’s workshop, production manager Liz Carter is helping many of the parade floats become glitter-free, by encouraging the use of fluorescent lights, LEDs and lanterns. They are also recycling and re-using props and floats from previous festivals.
Other festivals in Australia, such as the Sydney Festival, Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Festival, discourage the use of single-use plastics, but none have gone so far as to ban them altogether.
Several local councils in Australia, including Ryde Council, have banned balloons, and it’s also illegal in NSW to release more than 20 gas-inflated balloons at one time.