Plastic Pollution
September 10 2018

New Jersey Surfrider Chapters Unite Against Balloon Lobby to Protect Local Beaches

by Matt Gove

The Jersey Shore and South Jersey Chapters of the Surfrider Foundation are trying to reduce litter in New Jersey by passing a statewide ban on intentional balloon releases.

State bills S2468 and A3784 make it illegal to intentionally release balloons outdoors (not counting research and hot air balloons). These bills, supported by the Surfrider Foundation, would help keep balloons of New Jersey beaches and out of the ocean.

Released balloons don’t stay in the air forever, and when they come down they often end up in the ocean where sea life can become entangled in the ribbons, or choke after ingesting them. In the case of foil balloons, they can drift into electric lines and cause power outages. 

"If you ask any surfer, fishermen or boater, they'll tell you they find a lot of balloons in the ocean--and there's evidence they get consumed by wildlife" said Andrew Chambarry, president of the Jersey Shore Chapter of Surfrider Foundation.

These bills aren’t aimed at a child who accidentally lets go of their balloon outside. Large amounts of balloons are intentionally released at sporting events, parties, and get togethers. Other states such as California and Florida have already banned intentional balloon releases.

The Trenton based Balloon Council opposes the bills and have spent more than $1 million in the past five years lobbying legislators against regulations, state records show. 

The Balloon Council says litter isn’t a problem with balloons because they are made of latex, which biodegrades. This is misleading for a few reasons. First, balloons don’t degrade quickly, giving animals plenty of time to get tangled in them or even ingest them. Also, balloons aren't just rubber, latex balloons also contain a coagulant polymer as well as curing agents and other additives which makes them far from a 100% natural substance. Finally, even though latex is a naturally occuring substance, it does not exist in the marine environment so the flora and fauna that might consume a balloon or come across one are not equipped to handle or digest this material.

New Jersey Assembly bill A3784 was introduced on April 5th 2018, and referred to the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. The Senate version, S2468, was introduced on April 12th and sent to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

While Surfrider continues to fight for a statewide ban, we are also focusing on municipalities. South Jersey Chapter Chair Beth Kwart said, "Our Chapter has worked with more than ten South Jersey municipalities to pass bans on intentional mass balloon releases. As more municipalities pass such ordinances, they are sending a clear message to the State of New Jersey. Intentionally releasing a balloon is intentionally littering and should be treated that way! As a coastal state, we are the last line of defense before any type of litter enters our ocean. Banning intentional mass balloon releases is an easy measure to prevent litter from polluting our ocean." 

Fourteen New Jersey municipalities have passed release bans, including: Atlantic City, Bradley Beach, Brigantine, Cape May City, Egg Harbor City, Long Beach Township, Longport, Margate, New Milford , North Wildwood, Sea Isle City, Somers Point, Upper Township and Ventnor. Asbury Park city council members introduced a balloon release ban (Ordinance 2018-34) in August and will vote on September 26, 2018.

Want to get involved? Take a few minutes and fill out our action alert, which will send a message to your elected officials in New Jersey, asking them to pass the balloon release bills!