Kennebunk on Tuesday became the second town in Maine to ban the intentional release of balloons and the first community to prohibit people from displaying balloons outside.

Residents overwhelmingly supported the measure by a vote of 852 to 376.

“Kennebunk’s strong stand against balloon trash in the ocean has not just saved countless animal lives but it has engaged our community and we worked together to accomplish this goal,” said Will Jones, a resident who helped develop the ordinance. “I am already hearing that other towns in Maine will follow Kennebunk’s lead, so this is a good night. I’m proud of my community and grateful for their willingness to hear what I had to say.”

The move to ban balloons comes at a time of growing national awareness around the impacts of balloons on the environment. Advocates for restrictions on balloon releases say it’s a common-sense approach to reducing the number of balloons that end up in the ocean, where sea turtles, whales and birds mistake them for food.

Balloons are the most-recorded type of trash found floating in the Jeffrey’s Ledge Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Maine, and the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation spotted 2,919 balloons during whale watching trips in the Gulf of Maine between 2012 and 2017.

The balloon industry, which opposes this type of legislation, encourages people to properly use and dispose of balloons to avoid littering.

The balloon issue was considered on the state level this year. A bill to define balloons as litter and put in place fines for intentionally releasing them failed to gain support from the Maine Senate despite little opposition. Supporters of that bill believe the issue will come up again in the legislature.

Earlier this year, Unity became the first town in Maine to ban balloon releases. The Kennebunk ordinance goes a step further by prohibiting residents and businesses from displaying balloons outside.

In Kennebunk, the ordinance was championed by Jones, a recent Kennebunk High School graduate who has spent years educating schoolchildren and others about the impact balloons have on the ocean.

Jones first approached town officials two years ago and asked them to reconsider using balloons during the annual May Day celebration. Those conversations led to nearly two years of work with town committees to develop the balloon ordinance.

The ordinance prohibits anyone from knowingly or intentionally releasing balloons at any outdoor celebration, promotional activity, sporting or other event or in any public building. It also would prohibit anyone from displaying balloons outside or from using balloons in any public building or facility owned or leased by the town.

The ordinance does not apply to balloons used for scientific or meteorological purposes, hot air balloons that are recovered after launching, or balloons that are used indoors only in a privately owned building.

Even before the ordinance was backed by voters, many residents – including schoolchildren who listened to his presentations – told Jones they started to use alternatives to balloons.


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