Balloon launches have long been a festive tradition at weddings, memorials, and other celebrations. But it may soon come to an end in New Jersey, thanks to a proposed bill that would fine people up to $500 for releasing balloons.
Introduced by Republican senator Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr., the pending law would ban the release of balloons filled with lighter-than-air gases like helium. However, anyone who releases balloons for scientific reasons or kids who release five or fewer balloons would be exempt.
According to the legislature, the measure “is the most effective means of achieving a significant reduction in balloon debris and the environmental harm this debris causes.” Deflated balloons end up on beaches or in waterways and can strangle or choke wildlife. New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action group reported a significant increase in the number of balloons they found during their 2018 beach sweeps.
And New Jersey isn’t the only state trying to limit the release of balloons. Not only is the practice already banned in five states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia) but similar laws have also been proposed in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island.
It’s something many people feel strongly about, even the Balloon Council, a New Jersey-based organization of manufacturers and retailers that educate people about the proper handling of balloons. “The balloon council feels that all balloons should be deflated and properly disposed of,” spokeswoman Lorna O’Hara told the New Jersey Herald, adding that “there is heightened attention across the globe. We’re rising to what’s happening in the United States and globally.”