BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – City Councilman Michael Scott is looking to let the air out of balloons on Bainbridge Island.
A new city ordinance Scott is floating would prohibit the release of any type of balloon that isn’t 100 percent biodegradable. The proposal would also prohibit balloon use in any advertisements. It wouldn’t apply to manned hot air balloons or to scientific or research projects.
“Even though there were times when we thought it was fun or beautiful, we now know it’s not. It’s deadly and polluting,” Scott said at a City Council meeting on Tuesday.
Wildlife and ecosystems are threatened by balloon remnants and other litter, according to Scott. The new regulations would “protect our natural environment, including surrounding marine environment,” the ordinance text states.
The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and “many other governmental and nongovernmental organizations warn that balloons can kill marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife by entanglement or ingestion,” Scott wrote in an introduction to the ordinance.
“The attached ordinance addresses this issue and will assure that these threats to marine and terrestrial wildlife will not originate from Bainbridge Island,” he wrote.
Trash in the water, including balloons, affects more than 260 species worldwide, according to Ocean Conservancy, a national environmental advocacy group: “Animals, birds and fish get sick or choke when they eat balloon fragments and plastic valves and attachments. Many other marine animals drown when they get entangled in trailing ribbon or string.”
The new ordinance would regulate balloons under the city’s litter control codes. Violations of those ordinances are misdemeanor infractions that can carry a maximum fine of $500 or jail time of up to six months.
The initial proposal proposed banning the sale of balloons at stories like Winslow’s Safeway or the Calico Toy Shoppe. However, several councilmembers felt that went too far, and the proposal was amended to remove that section.
“The city of Bainbridge Island can be a leader on this issue,” Scott wrote, pointing to a small list of municipalities throughout the country that have implemented similar balloon regulations.
“I am expecting the Bainbridge community to be very supportive,” Scott wrote in an email to the Kitsap Sun.
City Council will pick up consideration of the amended proposal at its Tuesday, Sept. 12 meeting.