HAWAII KAI, Hawaii (KHON2) — It is hard to find a balloon with no strings attached, and it became illegal in Hawaii to intentionally release balloons outside — no matter how many or what kind — on Sunday, Jan. 1.

Fines can run in the hundreds of dollars for violators.

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The Hawaii Balloon Company has done outdoor releases since the 1970s, but what goes up most come down.

“They do go up into the atmosphere. They pop. They come down, shattered in tiny pieces,” said Hawaii Balloon Company owner Leslie Jeffryes. “People get more educated. People know this isn’t a great idea; so in the last six or eight months, we’ve just decided not to do it.”

It will not be a decision for everyone else; Intentional outdoor balloon releases in Hawaii have been illegal since Jan. 1.

The key word is intentional — the founder of Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii [BEACH] said children will not be fined for accidentally letting go of their balloon.

“But, if for instance, people are celebrating graduation and they decide to release a bunch of balloons, that is intentional and would qualify for the $500 fine,” said BEACH co-founder Suzanne Frazer.

Balloons do not just pop and fall to the ground in one piece if they are released, Frazer said, they shred into thin, tentacle-like strands during a process called brittle fracturing.

“It actually does this brittle fracture and then fall to the ground or into the ocean. And because of the shredding, that’s what gives it that tentacle-like appearance; and that’s why it’s more likely to be eaten by seabirds like albatross, marine animals like sea turtles.”

Suzanne Frazer, BEACH co-founder
FILE – Similarities can be seen in these side-by-side images of debris from a balloon (left) next to a Portuguese man o’ war, Hawaii, Jan. 3, 2022. (Photo/BEACH)

Frazer said balloons become gooey in the water and can clog up the digestive tract of marine animals. Aside from the ocean, Hawaiian Electric said 22 power outages have been caused by balloons running into power lines since 2018.

The Hawaii Balloon Company pointed to their balloon drops as an alternative to releases. Drops can be done indoors or outdoors.

“You would get a drop where you would fill them up with air. You’re on the ceiling in a net. You pull a string, and they all come down,” Jeffryes said. “We go back the next morning. We pop everything; we throw it in the trash.”

Fines for those who release, organize or cause the release of balloons can run up to $500 per offense.

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Exceptions for outdoor balloon releases include those being sent out by the government for scientific or meteorological purposes. Violations can be reported to police.