PROVIDENCE (WPRI) ─ There are all kinds of litter that can be found on Rhode Island shores, but balloons are potentially the most dangerous.
“I’m a kayaker and a boater and a biker. I’ve just seen balloons as litter all over the place,” Rep. Susan Donovan, D-Bristol, said.
For the second year in a row, Donovan has introduced legislation that would ban intentional balloon releases.
But this year there is a senate sponsor, meaning it will be heard in both chambers.
“We’re trying to eliminate intentional releases,” Donovan said. “We don’t want to outlaw all balloons for everyone. Certainly, a little child that wants a balloon can have one. We just want people to be aware that they need to dispose of them correctly.”
Balloons can get stuck in the digestive systems of animals and kill them. Donovan said she once came across a seagull tangled in a balloon string. She said the bird looked like it was dying, but fortunately, she was able to cut the string and free the bird.
“Mass releases of balloons are so unnecessary,” she said. “They are harmful to the environment. They cause power outages all over the country.”
If the bill passes, anyone who violates the law would receive a fine of up to $500. Balloons released for scientific or meteorological purposes would be exempt from the proposed law.
Donovan said she’s been receiving support beyond the shores of Rhode Island.
“That was the biggest surprise. Last year, when I put this bill in, I heard from fishermen and they were sending me pictures…fishermen from up and down the East Coast,” Donovan said.
While at Barrington Beach, Eyewitness News Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo found a couple of balloons within minutes of his arrival.
Geoff Dennis collected hundreds of balloons in Little Compton, including 281 in one day last year.
“Our volunteers, in one day last year, collected more than 700 balloons from the Rhode Island Shoreline,” Advocacy Coordinator for Save the Bay Jed Thorpe said.
Thorpe said the bill is a sensible solution to a significant problem.
“Balloons are certainly a problem we see along the shore, throughout the watershed, and we’re excited to support the bill,” Thorpe said.
Donovan said she hopes this bill passes this legislative session.
She said she hasn’t received too much opposition towards it.
In 2018, New Shoreham (Block Island) passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of balloons on Block Island.