Environmental advocates say Florida’s balloon ban doesn’t go far enough

Petition calls on Miami-Dade County mayor, other authorities to create ordinance

Balloon releases are now a hot-button issue after several people are cited for dumping balloons in Biscayne Bay.

COCONUT GROVE, Fla. – What goes up must come down and that goes for balloon releases. It has become a hot-button issue since a video that went viral showed people dumping balloons in Biscayne Bay at a marina in Coconut Grove.

So many people are used to celebrating with balloon releases throughout South Florida, but what can be done and what needs to be done to keep the environment safe?

“I did expect the community to be outraged,” said Miami-Dade Police Interim Director George Perez. “And that’s just another testament to our community, trusting its police department, working together with its police department. We’re so glad that (Local 10′s) Louis Aguirre featured this and amplified the voice of the original poster, and we took immediate action.”

The community is outraged enough to now take a deep dive into just how bad this is for the environment.

“Our state law actually allows people to litter,” said Catherine Uden, an environmental advocate and the field representative for Oceana in South Florida.

A 29-year-old man found out the hard way after he was fined $2,510 for illegal dumping and is at risk of facing up to $10,000 in fines and time in jail.

In 2012, a state law was passed making it illegal to release more than 10 balloons in a 24-hour time span. The penalty ranges from $250 to $1,000. But is that enough?

Uden doesn’t think so.

“What we have been asking our state lawmakers to do is to update our state law and to make sure we are not allowing any intentional balloon releases including ones that make exceptions for ‘biodegradable balloons’ because all balloons can be harmful to wildlife,” she said.

Coming off the heels of the video that went viral on Thursday, a change.org petition calls on county leaders to ban balloons altogether in coastal waters.

Tyler Vaval who works for Mopskis, a boat rental company in Miami, says his coworkers make it a point to be mindful.

“There’s no need to litter. We have trash cans over here at the marina, on the boats everywhere. I feel like it’s not necessary to do that,” he said.

It is a delicate balance. Many people who do balloon releases for loved ones may not realize the impact just one balloon can have on the environment. Uden said there are many alternatives to balloon releases.

She suggests going to www.balloonsblow.org, which provides information to educate people about the destructive effects released balloons have on animals, people, and the environment, and strives to inspire and promote an eco-conscious lifestyle.

Get more information about the issues of releasing balloons. Click here.

Find alternatives by clicking here.

The change.org petition, which states: “We are asking the mayor of Miami Daniella Levine Cava, Chief Bay Officer Irela Bague, and the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to pilot a new ordinance banning balloons and confetti in coastal waters.” Click here to sign the petition.

About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.