On Tuesday, June 22, the Southampton Town Board passed a resolution banning the purchase and distribution of balloons filled with gases lighter than air. The resolution proved the board to be willing to go a step further than previously existing legislation, which had prohibited deliberately releasing such balloons into the air.
Advocates of the new law, such as Southampton’s Sustainability Committee, said that the ban on balloons filled with light gases will help Southampton’s environment.
“We have all seen the devastating images of marine animals who have washed up on our beaches after ingesting balloons or getting tangled in the strings attached to the balloons,”said Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier, who serves as the liaison to the Sustainability Committee.
Another intended effect of the ban is to preserve helium, a gas that is common in balloons but also sees vital medical use. Liquid helium is used in many medical testing machines, like MRI scanners, to keep superconducting magnets cool.
Most of Southampton has already been in favor of such a balloon ban being passed. A poll conducted in 2020 by the Board found that 66% of residents supported “prohibiting the sale, distribution and releases” of balloons filled with gases lighter than air.
After the legislation was officially amended, Dieter von Lehsten, who is co-chair of the Sustainability Committee, praised the board for their efforts. “The pollution created by these balloons on our beaches and parks, in addition to the havoc they create for our wildlife ashore, and especially in the ocean, needed a strong message, which you delivered,” von Lehsten said.
The new law will go into effect on June 1, 2022.