Representative Susan Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) has introduced a bill to protect the environment and wildlife by banning the intentional release of balloons into the air.

“We are known as the Ocean State and for our beautiful beaches. We must keep them clean and safe not just for people, but for wildlife. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest hazards to animals, and this is an easy way to cut down on an item that poses one a serious danger to them,” said Representative Donovan in a press release.

Balloons pose a significant threat to wildlife and the environment. They often end up in waterways, where animals are attracted by their vibrant color and mistake them for food, which can cause injury or death to the animal. Animals also can become entangled in the string or remains of balloons. According to Save The Bay, the plastic remains of 835 balloons were found along Rhode Island’s shoreline during its statewide cleanup in 2017.

Representative Donovan, an avid kayaker who represents a coastal district, has witnessed these dangers firsthand. A couple of years ago, while kayaking on the Sakonnet River off Portsmouth with a friend, she encountered a seagull entangled in the string of a balloon. She captured the gull, which was injured and suffering, and used some nail clippers she had with her to free it from the string.

The bill (2019-H 5865), which is modeled after legislation proposed in New Jersey, would prohibit any intentional release of balloons, except for scientific or meteorological purposes with government permission, hot air balloon launches as long as the balloons are recovered, and indoors. Each violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $500 per offense, although releases of multiple balloons at once would be considered a single offense.

“Many people release balloons during celebrations, but they do not think about the harm it brings to our state and wildlife.” said Representative Donovan in the release. “Balloons released that way are causing wildlife to suffer very painful and totally needless death. I don’t think anyone really wants their celebration to inflict that kind of suffering. It’s time to put an end to this unintentional but very harmful type of pollution.”

She added that she attended an event that was part of the Newport stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race last year, when Dee Caffari, the skipper of a competing yacht named “Turn the Tide on Plastics,” talked about the extent of the plastics pollution she witnessed in her time sailing around the world. The item that bothered her most, she said, was balloons.

Last year, the New Shoreham Town Council passed an ordinance banning the sale of balloons on Block Island as a means of addressing this issue. Representative Donovan’s bill would not prohibit balloon sales, only the outdoor release of balloons.

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here - https://whatsupnewp.com/2021/09/letter-from-the-publisher-some-personal-news/

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In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
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