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Intentional Balloon Releases Banned in Maryland

New State Law will Reduce Plastic Pollution that Degrades Waterways and Threatens Animal Life

The new Maryland law bans the releasing of balloons that, upon landing, create litter and threaten the health and safety of animals on the land in the water. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is responsible for enforcing the law.

“In Maryland it’s now illegal to be a plastic balloon litterbug and that’s good news for our land, water, and wildlife,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “With the rising tide of plastic pollution, this new law is an important and timely step for the health of our Chesapeake Bay, coast, and ocean.”

“Balloons can be a great way to commemorate a special occasion, but when they are intentionally released into the air, they can harm and kill livestock and wildlife. They can also cause electric outages when caught in power lines,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “The key is to find other ways to celebrate or honor a loved one or if you have balloons, be sure to ‘pop them and drop them’ in the trash rather than releasing them into the air on purpose.”

The law bans people aged 13 or older from intentionally releasing a balloon or organizing or participating in a mass release of 10 or more balloons. This legislation follows similar bills in other states, including neighboring Virginia and Delaware, and certain municipalities within Maryland.

Biannual surveys of mid-Atlantic beaches consistently find balloons and related debris such as ribbons. These items can be mistaken by wildlife or even domestic animals as food, or animals can become entangled.

A person who violates the law may be subject to penalties of up to $100 per violation, community service, or watching a video about environmental pollution. MDE is charged with enforcing the law, but may delegate enforcement to local governments.

Suggested litter-free alternatives to releasing balloons for various occasions include blowing up balloons or using sparklers to create a festive atmosphere, while, for memorials, installing a bench or planting trees or wildflowers offer long lasting tributes to loved ones. Other alternatives to balloon releases include the release of bubbles, flying kites, or tossing eco-friendly “confetti” like bird seed, flower petals or dried leaves.

Balloon releases prohibited under the law can be reported to MDE by telephone at 410-537-3315 or by email (MDE.WEBMASTER@maryland.gov).

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