Why one Rhode Island town banned balloons

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balloon bouquet

Birthday parties and gender-reveal announcements will certainly lose some of their sizzle in the town of New Shoreham, Rhode Island. Effective April 9, 2018, the town council passed an ordinance banning the sale, use and distribution of balloons.

“Balloons pose a risk and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals. Anyone who walks the beach or spends time on the water has seen that balloons have become common in the local marine ecosystem,” according to a statement on the town’s website announcing the ban.

According to the city’s website, “New Shoreham has the distinction of being the smallest town in the smallest state.” The town encompasses all of Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast. As of the 2000 Census, the town had a population of just over 1,000 people.

The legislation states: “The purpose of this ordinance is to protect the wildlife and coastal ecosystems of Block Island, the enjoyment of nature, and the health, safety, and welfare of Block Island’s residents and visitors by banning the use of balloons as it has been determined that balloons pose a risk and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals, so as to constitute a public nuisance.”

Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of the town council, told CNN, “We are very concerned about the environment. There’s a lot of information out there of damages that balloons do to the wildlife.”

Lacoste said balloons have frequently been found in the water around the town. In December, the town voted to ban most single-use plastic bags, for the same reason. He said the balloon bill is essentially a follow-up to that earlier legislation.

colorful pinwheelsPinwheels can be just as colorful as balloons, but can be used over and over again. (Photo: Otota DANA/flickr)

Balloons Blow, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to educating people about the dangers released balloons can have on animals, people and the environment. The group points out that all released balloons always return back to the ground as litter. Animals like birds, whales and sea turtles can die after swallowing balloons. Mylar/foil balloons can cause power outages and spark fires. Plus, helium is a nonrenewable resource.

The group suggests environmentally friendly alternatives to balloons, including banners, pinwheels and wildflower seed bombs.

New Shoreham joins several cities and states that have enacted balloon legislation. Several cities in New Jersey, including Atlantic City, and several cities in Massachusetts, including Nantucket and Provincetown, have banned balloons. Other places have laws that regulate the number of balloons that can be released at once or limit the release of certain types of balloons or sky lanterns.

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