Bill banning intentional balloon releases gaining steam in Virginia General Assembly

Posted at 2:06 PM, Jan 20, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA - Balloon releases are a staple at weddings, memorials, sporting events and ceremonies.

"People think it goes up to heaven, but it doesn't. It comes down in our beaches and waterways," said Virginia Beach Delegate Nancy Guy.

Guy continues her charge on House Bill 2159, which would ban all intentional balloon releases – those made up of latex and foil specifically.

"Releasing balloons is littering, plain and simple. It's the same as me throwing latex gloves out the window on the way home from work," said Mark Swingle with the Virginia Aquarium.

Environmentalists like Swingle spoke out for the bill Wednesday.

"I have seen balloons removed from the stomachs of sea turtles," Swingle said.

Current law in the Commonwealth states releasing up to 49 balloons per hour is legal, but more than 50 is illegal. But just one balloon can have devastating impacts on the environment, Guy said.

"They come down in meadows and fields and harm livestock," she said. "They are the most prevalent form of plastic on our remote beaches, and they come down in waterways and kill marine life."

Guy would like to see a civil penalty of $25 for anyone who violates the bill.

"The intent is to create a deterrent so event organizers realize this is prohibited conduct," Guy said.

House Bill 2159 has passed through the Natural Resources sub-committee with a vote of 5 to 3. It now moves to on be heard in the full Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.