Southampton Town Board members approved a ban on the intentional outdoor release of all balloons on Tuesday, an effort to reduce pollution and protect the environment.
The ban makes it illegal to release most types of balloons, whether they are made of latex, rubber or Mylar, or anything else that could be filled with helium, hydrogen, oxygen or nitrous oxide, and sealed at the neck.
Some exceptions to the rule include scientific balloons, hot air balloons or those which are released indoors.
If anyone is caught releasing balloons intentionally, they could face stiff penalties—including a fine of up to $1,000, as many as 15 days in jail, or both.
Over the course of two public hearings, at which only a small number of residents spoke, the consensus was that the rules are not strict enough.
Randy Johnston recently moved to Southampton three months ago and said he sees balloons frequently when he takes walks along the beach. He was even more surprised, he said, when he and his wife went shopping and saw helium balloons being sold in the grocery store.
Rather than just ban the intentional release, Mr. Johnston suggested the balloons be banned altogether.
Town Board member Christine Scalera said on Monday that the board plans to eventually look into a ban on the sale of balloons in the town, although she doesn’t typically support bans. “It’s got to be compelling for me to be able to get behind something like that,” she said.
Ms. Scalera said the ban on stirrers, plastic straws and styrofoam had a great deal of support, and the local restaurants were on board with getting rid of their plastic stock and switching over to alternatives.
“I anticipate the same thing with the balloon ban,” she said. “I think everybody is in support of that.
“Whether or not I would support prohibiting the sale is a little bit of a stretch for me, but we’ll just have to see what happens,” she added.