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Bill banning intentional balloon releases in Hawaii approved

April 25, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — People in Hawaii will no longer be able to intentionally release balloons into the air under legislation aimed at protecting the environment and reducing waste, lawmakers said.

The bill passed a final reading in the House of Representatives on Thursday and is next headed to Democratic Gov. David Ige. If enacted into law, it would establish the strongest ban on balloon releases in the U.S.

People who violate the law would be fined $500 starting Jan. 1, 2023. Hot air balloons and balloons used for scientific purposes by a government entity would be exempt.

The bill was introduced by Democratic House Speaker Scott Saiki at the request of the nonprofit organization Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii. It passed both the House and Senate chambers, before being approved by state legislators on Tuesday, KITV-TV reported.

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“When people release them (balloons), it’s actually a form of littering,” said Suzanne Frazer, president of the Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign. “That balloon is going to go up into the sky and then burst into a pattern called a brittle fracture and that causes the balloon to shred into tentacle-like pieces.”

Frazer argued that the balloons can kill marine animals and birds through strangulation and accidental swallowing.

“I think education plays the biggest role in this law. I’m sure that people — when they’re celebrating and commemorating — are not really wanting to harm any animals,” she told Hawaii Public Radio. “I think that if we can raise awareness about this, people will choose not to do it anymore.”

A number of states have passed similar laws related to balloon releases including California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia, West Hawaii Today reported. Numerous cities and counties also prohibit the release of balloons.