This Rhode Island Town Just Banned Balloons for the Best Reason

New Shoreham, R.I., might tout itself as being the smallest town in the smallest state, but it just did something really big for the environment and wildlife by banning balloons.

The Town Council just unanimously passed an ordinance that bans the sale, distribution and use of balloons throughout the town, which encompasses all of Block Island. The new ban comes with a fine of up to a $200, which will be enforceable by the New Shoreham Police Department.

“We are very concerned about the environment,” Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of the town council, told CNN. “There’s a lot of information out there of damages that balloons do to the wildlife.”

According to the ordinance, its purpose “is to protect the wildlife and coastal ecosystems of Block Island, the enjoyment of nature, and the health, safety, and welfare of Block Island’s residents and visitors by banning the use of balloons as it has been determined that balloons pose a risk and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals, so as to constitute a public nuisance.”

The new ban builds on the town’s recent efforts to curb plastic use by banning plastic bags. Planning Board Chair Margie Comings, who spearheaded the initiative as part of the Board’s efforts to ban harmful products from the Island, told the Block Island Times she received an “astounding” amount of support in favor of the ban.

The Town Council has also pointed anyone looking for more information and alternatives to balloons to Balloons Blow, an organization that’s focused on raising awareness about the dangers balloons pose to animals and the environment.

For animals, both mylar and latex balloons pose a deadly threat. Animals can become entangled in strings, or try to eat them, which will block their digestive systems and cause them to starve to death. Sadly, this has been a tragic fate met by both animals on land, and at sea …especially for species like sea turtles, who mistake them for jellyfish.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), balloon debris is a national issue, whether people are intentionally releasing them or accidentally letting them go, and waste from them is turning up all over our shores. In 2014, it took 236 volunteers just three hours to collect 900 balloons in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, while thousands of pieces of balloons have been collected on beaches throughout the state over the past few years. Unfortunately, that’s just one example of how common balloon litter is on beaches.

It’s a promising sign that people are actively taking action to stop balloons from adding to the problem of marine debris. New Shoreham now joins a dozen other cities in the U.S. with balloon bans, and hopefully more will join them.

For more info about the problems with balloons and the many alternatives to use for fun, or events, check out Balloons Blow.

If you want to see your city do something awesome to kick plastic, you can help by starting a petition.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Lesa D
Lesa D19 days ago

thank you New Shoreham!

Lesa D
Lesa D19 days ago

thank you Alicia...

Karen N
Karen N24 days ago

Good on New Shoreham, R.I.! . . . For the welfare of all animals, their habitat, woodlands, forests, oceans, and the overall environment there needs be a worldwide ban on balloons NOW, along with Chinese lanterns.

S M27 days ago

Thank you that town!

ANA MARIJA R29 days ago

Thank you for the first encouraging news today. :)

Chad A
Chad Aabout a month ago

Thank you.

Barbara B
Barbara Babout a month ago

I've long thought that there has to be a better way to remember/honor someone than to release balloons into the environment. Wish more people would stop and think about the consequences.

Cathy B
Cathy Babout a month ago

Thank you.

Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Good news.

Winn A
Winn Aabout a month ago