ORLANDO, Fla. — We all love balloons, and we all love nature. A nice bunch of balloons released in the air are capable of making almost any singular moment a most memorable one, be it a kids occasion or an adult celebration. But in Florida, they’re illegal and have been since 1989.
Some people release balloons as a tradition for birthdays and other memorials and they don’t even realize that what they’re doing is not just considered, but actually littering and it's illegal. Yes, littering and there are laws enacted to prevent such kind pollution. Helium-filled balloons contaminate the environment, and also threaten wildlife when they fall back on the ground (or water). According to the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary there’s a 70 percent chance that balloons will fall into the ocean once released.
When you release balloons in the air they don’t just go away into the space, the atmospheric pressure is dramatically reduced at high altitudes, so a helium balloon expands as it rises and eventually explodes. If you inflate a balloon beyond its limits at room temperature, it will break into small pieces up to about ten centimeters long.
In our State of Florida, releasing more than ten balloons to the air at once, could cost you a $250 fine. Florida, California, Connecticut, Tennessee and Virginia - all already have laws that ban or restrict launches.
In recent days, a baby dolphin was euthanized in Fort Myers by FWC biologists. Biologists said the found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon during a necropsy. The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute declared on their Facebook page that this finding highlights the need to reduce single use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment, although many additional factors need to be also considered, such as underlying illness, disease and maternal separation, before a final cause of stranding and death for the dolphin can be determined.
Nationwide, there's a growing awareness of the problem, and it has energized legislation in state governments. Bills to limit the intentional release of large numbers of balloons are being aired in legislatures in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, in addition to Maine, said Jennifer Schultz of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas is also considering a study on windblown and waterborne litter that would include helium balloons. A similar proposal was terminated while in committee in the Kentucky legislature last month.
Here are the details of the Florida Law
*Florida does not recognize any balloon as “biodegradable”.*
379.233 Release of balloons
(1) The Legislature finds that the release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals.
(2) It is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to intentionally release, organize the release, or intentionally cause to be released within a 24-hour period 10 or more balloons inflated with a gas that is lighter than air except for:
(a) Balloons released by a person on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological purposes;
(b) Hot air balloons that are recovered after launching;
(c) Balloons released indoors; or
(d) Balloons that are either biodegradable or photodegradable, as determined by rule of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and which are closed by a hand-tied knot in the stem of the balloon without string, ribbon, or other attachments. In the event that any balloons are released pursuant to the exemption established in this paragraph, the party responsible for the release shall make available to any law enforcement officer evidence of the biodegradability or photodegradability of said balloons in the form of a certificate executed by the manufacturer. Failure to provide said evidence shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this act.
(3) Any person who violates subsection (2) is guilty of a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a fine of $250.
(4) Any person may petition the circuit court to enjoin the release of 10 or more balloons if that person is a citizen of the county in which the balloons are to be released.