HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Balloons soaring into the sky during vigils and memorials often offer a beautiful tribute to a loved one, but now there’s a push to try to ban balloons being released in America’s largest township.
The folks who clean up Long Island waterways say they’re not just finding a balloon here and there; they’re finding many many balloons on a regular basis, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday.
“We are always picking up balloons, always. It’s not like one or two, it’s 10 or 15. Those are the balloons we see. How many go down to the bottom?” said Scott Bockner of Operation SPLASH.
Balloons released with good intentions at family memorials or celebrations end up choking and strangling marine life, endangering boats because they can get caught in propellers and they last for years, because they do not break down.
Even so-called biodegradable balloons are not fully breaking down.
Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said Monday she’s proposing the ban because of what she calls deceptive advertising practices that lead the consumer to believe natural latex balloons don’t hurt the environment, when they actually take years to break down and wreak havoc over time.
“These packaging leads people to believe that as long as they spend a little bit more money on biodegradable balloons it is safe to release them in the environment. Well, we’re here today to deflate that myth,” Gillen said. “We are here to deflate the growing myth that balloon releases are environmentally friendly, so long as natural latex balloons, marketed by manufacturers as biodegradable are used. Because we now know that biodegradable balloons, while somewhat better for the environment than the old balloons, can still take several years to decompose, long enough to wreak havoc on the wildlife that ingest them along the South Shore of Long Island.”
Added Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, “Balloons don’t biodegrade. To biodegrade and to be environmentally friendly means that the balloon is supposed to degrade into natural environmental elements that are safe for our environment. Balloons don’t do that.”
Officials hope a $500 for offenders will help change the culture and replace balloon releases with other ways to celebrate or remember a loved one.
“Bubbles are a great way to have, again a sort of visual of something rising into the air. We throw flowers into the ocean,” said Amanda Moore of the Surfrider Foundation.
The ban would not impose penalties for an accidental release. It’s designed to ban an intentional organized release, Gusoff reported.
The Town of Hempstead, with a population over 750,000, is the largest township in America wants to set the standard and lead the path.
A public hearing is set for Oct. 2.