Ohio should put limit on balloon releases
Ohio lawmakers would do well to consider a plan crafted by lawmakers in Hawaii for dealing with an unsightly wildlife hazard and outdoors nuisance – released balloons.
Anyone who has spent any time in the woods and fields, and pays attention, finds spent balloons littering the landscape. The worst of them are the garishly colored, non-biodegradable Mylar obscenities that drape and twist and persist virtually everywhere. They are so widespread we even may have become as numb to their presence as roadside beer cans and fast-food trash.
Hawaiian lawmakers recently passed a measure to fine people $500 for intentionally releasing balloons. As of this writing it was awaiting the signature of Gov. David Ige. It would take effect January, 2023. The reason for the bill is that spent balloons are harmful to the state’s marine life. Not to mention hideous, carelessly unsightly.
Ohio, of course, does not have the marine-life threat. But if you can be fined for the stream-litter law for tossing beer cans or fast-foot trash along our natural streams and rivers, why should mindless balloon-releases be exempt? They are just as ugly, and persistent.
In Hawaii, the non-profit Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.) pushed the proposed law. “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.
Ohio should be next.