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Gov. Ige Signs Bill into Law Banning Intentional Balloon Releases

July 3, 2021, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated July 3, 7:03 AM
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The intentional release of balloons will now be banned throughout the state of Hawai‘i starting in January 2023.

Act 141 bans all intentional releases of balloons in Hawai‘i with the exception of hot air balloons, balloons released indoors and remaining indoors, and balloons released by the government for scientific or meteorological purposes.

Gov. David Ige signed the bill into law this week. This is the strongest measure banning balloon releases signed into law so far in the US.

Fines for violators who release, organize, or cause the release of balloons are $500 per offense.

The bill was initiated after the nonprofit organization Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaiʻi (BEACH), reached out to lawmakers. The all-volunteer group brings awareness and solutions to plastic marine debris.

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BEACH collected over 1,500 signatures from people across Hawai‘i in support of state action on marine debris including banning balloon releases. The petition was presented to the Environmental committees in the Senate and House as well as Ige.

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A bill was ultimately introduced in the House by Speaker Scott Saiki and in the Senate by Senators Karl Rhoads and Mike Gabbard.

“We are very grateful to Governor Ige, Speaker Saiki, Senator Gabbard, Senator Rhoads and all the lawmakers who helped this important and necessary bill succeed in becoming law,” said Suzanne Frazer, Co-Founder and President of BEACH. “Reducing plastic marine debris is critical to the survival of Hawai’i`s marine life and this law will prevent one of the most lethal types of debris.”

Sea turtles, albatrosses and other marine life that eat squid and jellyfish can mistake balloons in the ocean for food. According to BEACH officials, this is due to the tentacle-like appearance of the plastic ribbons and the balloons which undergo brittle fracture in the air when they burst.

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“When ingested, balloons become sticky and gooey and are impossible for an animal or bird to move through their digestive system,” BEACH stated. “Blockages of the gastrointestinal tract caused by balloons lead the animal or bird to starve to death. The plastic ribbons attached to balloons are also a danger as they can cause injury or death to marine life that becomes entangled in them or ingest them.”

Additionally, balloon releases are responsible for causing power outages throughout the state affecting thousands of residents. In April this year, more than 2,000 people lost power in the Mililani and Waipahu areas due to balloons entangled in powerlines.

BEACH officials also note that balloons filled with helium is a waste of rare gas. Officials say helium is essential for use in scientific and medical applications for example it is used to cool MRI machines. There may only be a little over 100 years of helium left on earth.

Although the law will not begin for another 18 months, BEACH hopes that in the meantime, with the passage of Act 141, more people will become aware of the harm that balloons cause to marine animals and birds and will choose to celebrate or commemorate loved ones in non-harmful ways instead of littering balloons into the air.

“In taking this responsible action to ban all balloon releases, Hawai‘i has set a wonderful example for the world to follow,” Frazer said.

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