A proposed Massachusetts law would ban the sales of balloons filled with gases like helium that environmentalists say, when released to the sky, pose serious and potentially fatal risks to wildlife.
If passed, the proposal would ban “the sale, distribution, and release of any type of balloon, including but not limited to plastic, latex, or mylar, filled with any type of lighter-than-air gas, both for public or private use.”
Violators would have to pay a $100 fine.
The law, filed in January, would not apply to scientific balloons released by the state or federal governments and hot air balloons.
While the law, if approved, would shoot down traditions at weddings, parties, and other celebrations, wildlife experts and researchers say ending the practice of ceremoniously releasing balloons into the sky could help cut down on environmental pollution.
“We see balloons everywhere: at memorials, funerals, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, conventions, sporting events, and even car dealerships,” NOAA Fisheries wrote on its website last year. “It can feel joyful to release them up to the sky, watching them soar unfettered into the atmosphere where they vanish into the ether. Except they don’t.”
Experts say balloons ultimately turn into trash that often becomes adrift at sea, where many animals get tangled or eat the debris, which can ultimately choke them or eventually lead to starvation.
Mylar and the bright colors of rubber and latex balloons, for example, can look a whole lot like jellyfish to sea turtles, who will move in to chomp down on their desired prey, according to NOAA.
The agency says that between 2008 and 2016, 280,293 balloons were found in the United States during the Ocean Conservancy’s annual beach cleanup. The number breaks down to an average of 31,143 balloons a year, NOAA said.
Business owners, however, are not keen on the proposal.
Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told Boston.com Friday the organization sees the bill as a government overstep that could put local party supply stores out of business.
“There just seems to be a growing trend to ban anything that’s made … from oil and chipping away (at them) little by little, whether it’s plastic bags to certain cups, straws … Consumers can make decisions on their own on whether they want to buy balloons,” Hurst said.
Peake’s office did not return requests for comment.
The bill is under review by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture.