RI environmental advocates hope Block Island balloon ban goes statewide

Environmental advocates hope Block Island's decision to ban balloons takes off statewide.

Environmental advocates hope Block Island's decision to ban balloons takes off statewide.

The New Shoreham Town Council voted Monday 5-0 to prohibit the sale and use of balloons on the island. Councilman Ken Lacoste said it's intended to protect the island’s wildlife and coastal ecosystems.

"People that have events out here on the island and tie a whole bunch of balloons to a rock or to a tree to signify where the event is. The way the wind is out here those ultimately more than not get blown away and end up in the water," Lacoste said.

Marine animals then mistake the balloons for food and ingest them. Some get tangled up in their string. The balloons also wash ashore, along with mounds of other debris.

Save The Bay collected more than 800 balloons in 2017 along Rhode Island’s shoreline, according to Dave Prescott, who is the South County Coastkeeper.

"They're used once and most people forget about them. They can have a really huge impact on our shoreline and the marine life," Prescott said.

Prescott hopes the push to ban balloons picks up statewide much like it has with plastic bags. He said in Westerly a few restaurants have also stopped using plastic straws.

"I think any of these single-use plastics -- they're used once and then they remain forever. Plastics, all they do is break down into smaller and smaller pieces," Prescott said.

The balloon ban in Block Island isn't just about keeping the shoreline pristine, but it's also being a good neighbor.

"We wouldn't want balloons being sold on the island or used on the island to get in our waters around the island, but also drift to some other place, like one of the vineyards or Nantucket or along the Cape, Lacoste said."

The balloon ban goes into effect on April 9. Violators could be fined up to $200.

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