florida balloons
Workers retrieving balloons from the Florida coast. Credit: FWRI

It's Now Illegal To Release Balloons In Florida

Beginning July 1, it will be illegal to intentionally release balloons in Florida. Violations could result in a $150 fine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill this week banning the release of balloons outdoors to protect wildlife. The governor signed the bill along with others to define antisemitism and provide security for Jewish schools on Monday without comment.

With the bill, lawmakers removed language from the current statute that allowed the release of nine balloons within 24 hours or more for balloons made out of biodegradable materials. Starting July 1, releasing a balloon outside will amount to littering, which carries a  $150 fine. However, children under the age of six are exempt from penalties.

Releasing balloons hurts wildlife

According to a state government analysis of the bill, intentionally releasing balloons outside can pose a "significant danger to wildlife" and "a nuisance to the environment." As the report explains, a released balloon will drift away and become litter on land or in waterways.

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If in the water, a burst balloon poses the most risk to turtles, which eat them thinking they're jellyfish. If ingested, the balloon along with any plastic ribbon tied to it could block an animal's airway or intestines. Additionally, birds and other animals could get entangled in the materials.

Florida reacts to the bill's passage

In March, the bill passed an overwhelming majority vote, with 102 in favor and nine against it. It's also being described as a rare example of Republicans aligning with environmental groups and Democrats opposing it.

Linda Chaney, a Republican representative from Pinellas County who sponsored the bill, told the Tampa Bay Times that it was "an easy way to protect our waterways and our wildlife."

Dianne Hart, a Democrat from Tampa, criticized the bill, saying it will disproportionately affect the Black community. She explained that Black people often release balloons to honor deceased loved ones.

Hart also raised concerns about what happens if a fine goes unpaid and when it turns into a criminal offense. What's more, she said that the measure fails to include an educational component. She argued the public should have a chance to alter their traditions so they comply with the law.