News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 8, 2021
Balloon releases are now considered littering
McDonald sponsors new balloon law

by Leslie Landrigan

If you release more than 15 balloons into the air, you could be arrested and fined for littering under a new law sponsored by State Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington. The law took effect on July 1.

McDonald, a commercial fisherman, said balloons are one of the most common and harmful kinds of plastic that fishermen see on the water. “With this new law, more people will realize they shouldn’t be littering, damaging ocean life and negatively affecting fishermen’s livelihoods,” McDonald said in a statement.

Under Maine law, littering can bring fines between $100 and $500 and, for a subsequent offense, between $500 and $1000.

Balloons are the number one killer of seabirds, according to McDonald’s statement, which relies on data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The data shows birds and animals are all likely to eat balloons, choke on them or get entangled in their strings or ribbons. Balloons can’t be digested and don’t break down, McDonald said.

McDonald, House chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Marine Resources Committee, is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents the Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Vinalhaven and Marshall Island Township.