- Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill to make it illegal to intentionally release balloons.
- If signed by Gov. David Ige, people who intentionally release helium balloons face a $500 fine.
- Supporters say the bill would reduce pollution that is harmful to the state’s marine life.
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Hawaii lawmakers this week voted to pass a bill that would make it illegal to intentionally release balloons filled with helium or another similar gas into the atmosphere.
According to a report, if signed into law by Hawaii Gov. David Ige, people who intentionally release balloons will be subject to a $500 fine beginning January 2023.
The nonprofit Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.) backed the proposal, which was introduced in the state legislature by Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki, a Democrat, West Hawaii Today first reported.
“This type of litter is one of the most harmful there is to marine life. Sea turtles, albatrosses and other marine life that eat squid and jellyfish can mistake a balloon in the ocean for food,” said Suzanne Frazer, the co-founder of B.E.A.C.H. in written testimony supporting the bill.
“When balloons are ingested they cause blockages of the gastro-intestinal tract that then leads to starvation and death,” she continued. “The plastic ribbon attached to balloons is also a danger as it can cause injury or death to marine life that become entangled in it or ingest it.”
Some balloon releases are exempt from the law, including those that are released indoors, hot air balloons, and balloons released as part of scientific research, according to the legislation.
“Although a large amount of marine plastic debris arrives from the ocean, it is all of our responsibility to reduce the amount of plastic debris entering and re-entering our ocean and beaches,” said Suzanne Case, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson, in written testimony in support of the bill.
“This bill would help reduce the balloon waste load entering Hawaii’s waters and shorelines and contribute to the improved health of our wildlife and their habitats,” she added.
A 2019 report published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that balloons posed the biggest risk to sea birds and were 32 times more likely to kill them if ingested compared to other hard plastics.
According to BalloonsBlow, a non-profit organization that tracks policies related to balloon releases, states including California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia, already have laws that prohibit or limit balloon releases.