Wednesday March 27th state director Carissa Maurin gave the following testimony on behalf of Enviornment Maine in support of Representative Mick Devin’s LD 937 ‘An Act Regarding the Sale and Release or Abandonment of Balloons’ which would amend the State’s litter law to provide that a person who releases or abandons a balloon outdoors is subject to penalties under that law regarding the waste materials resulting from that release or abandonment. This bill aims to prevent the release of balloons into the environment becuasae they pose a danger and a nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals. Her testimony is as following:
“Good afternoon Senator Carson, Rep. Tucker, and distinguished members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Thank you for allowing me to present this testimony. My name is Carissa Maurin and I am the State Director at Environment Maine. I am speaking today in support of LD 937 ‘An Act Regarding the Sale and Release or Abandonment of Balloons’.
Where do balloons go after they’re released outside? Well, after they pop, they have a pretty good chance of getting eaten by a bird — to disastrous effect. A new study found that balloons are the highest-risk plastic debris item for seabirds. Balloons are 32 times more likely to kill an animal that ingests them, in comparison with other plastic items, because they easily block the gastrointestinal tract. Animals mistake balloon remains for food, which can cause blockage of stomach and intestines and lead to starvation. Latex rubber, in spite of its natural origin, can last up to four years in the marine environment allowing ample time to be ingested by marine wildlife. Sea turtles and other wildlife have been found starved to death with latex balloons blocking their stomachs.
Besides eating balloons, marine animals like the endangered leatherback and Atlantic ridley sea turtle, can also get tangled in the balloon strings which are regularly sighted in the Gulf of Maine. The Sea Turtle Foundation estimates that 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million seabirds die every year from ingesting or becoming entangled in marine debris, including indigestible plastic like balloons that can obstruct stomachs.
Balloons can travel thousands of miles, polluting the most remote & pristine places. Balloon debris can even have an economic impact on communities, contributing to dirty beaches which drive away tourists, or causing power outages from mylar balloons covered in metallic paint that gets tangled in power lines.
Connecticut, Florida, California, Tennessee and Virginia have already banned the release of balloons. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local chapters of the National Audubon Society cite the negative impact to wildlife when they urge people to stop releasing balloons. We need to prevent the release of balloons into the environment because they pose a danger to wildlife and marine animals, and they cause hardship for the municipalities that have to deal with cleaning up the waste.”