Florida Could Ban Release of Balloons to Curb Environmental Pollution

It could soon be illegal to release balloons into the air in Florida, as the state looks to protect its waterways.

The Florida legislature has already passed a new bill that would ban the intentional release of balloons outside. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law, and it would take effect on July 1 if he does.

The state has been at the forefront of political controversies and divisions in recent years, but this balloon ban is the rare example of bipartisan support in Florida. Environmentalists have been championing the bill, but it was also sponsored by two different GOP lawmakers in the state.

One of those sponsors, state Representative Linda Chaney, commented:

“Balloons contribute to the increase in microplastic pollution, which is harmful to every living thing including humans, polluting our air and drinking water. My hope is that this bill changes the culture, making people more aware of litter in general, including balloons.”

Chaney said she was first made aware of how harmful balloon debris can be on the environment back in 2020. Many aquatic animals commonly mistake balloon debris in the ocean for jellyfish. They then eat the balloon and feel full once they do, which starves them.

The ribbons that are tied to balloons also are dangers to manatees and turtles, which can become entangled in them.

It’s not just ocean animals that are susceptible, though. Chaney said she learned about a cow that was pregnant that died after ingesting a balloon while she was grazing. The cow’s unborn calf also died.

The Florida bill closes a loophole in a law already on the books that allowed for balloons to be released outside, as long as “only” nine balloons per person were released in a 24-hour period.

This new law clarifies that balloons are an environmental hazard. It makes releasing balloons intentionally equal to littering, which is a non-criminal offense that is punishable by a $150 fine.

The ban applies also to any balloon that’s described by a manufacturer as being biodegradable.

The sale of balloons isn’t restricted at all under the bill, either for manufacturers or party suppliers. They’re still allowed to be used as decorations outdoors or indoors if they are secured properly.

What’s exempt from Florida’s law is any balloon that a government agency releases or that’s sanctioned by the government for scientific purposes.

Supporters of the bill include the Florida Retail Association and the Coalition for Responsible Celebration — which is a trade association that represents party stores and balloon distributors. That organization released a statement that said it recognized “the importance of promoting responsible balloon usage and ensuring safe access to these joy-inspiring products.”

The director of non-profit organization Ocean Conservancy, Jon Paul Brooker, said that increased concern over beach health — which is a significant driver of tourism in Florida — was a major reason why lawmakers and conservationists were able to find common ground for the bill.

As he said:

“Florida is its beaches. People are not going to flock by millions to them if they’re trashed and there’s dead animals and plastic and trash all over.”