Maryland Outlaws Intentional Balloon Releases to Protect Wildlife

Don’t let go of your balloon in Maryland! You could get a $100 fine.

Hold on tight to your balloons next time you visit Maryland. Letting go could result in a $100 fine.

In an effort to curb plastic pollution and protect wildlife, the state has made it illegal for persons 13 and older to intentionally let go of a balloon.

Organizing or participating in any event that involves a balloon release (such as a wedding, funeral or graduation) is also now illegal.

The law may seem like a buzzkill for those wanting to celebrate the good old fashioned way, but the remnants of traveling balloons are the deadliest form of plastic to seabirds and other marine life, according to a recent report.

Seabirds are 32 times more likely to die from ingesting a balloon than hard plastics like LEGO’s or straws, the study found.

Because of their flexibility, soft rubbery balloons are able to squeeze into animals’ stomach cavities and then open up and block them, researchers found.

Even if balloons are released far away from oceans or waterways, they often still end up there. They can also get caught in trees, where they can entangle birds and other forest-dwelling animals.

Even balloons advertised as “biodegradable” take between 6 months to a year to biodegrade, and even longer in salt water, which acts as a preservative.

Here are some eco-friendlier alternatives to brighten up your next celebration:

Ribbon Dancers and Kites: Ribbon dancers and kites are just as beautiful and more engaging than balloons, as they require guests to twirl, run and move around. Plus they can take them home and keep them “forever” rather than litter them into the environment after 24 hours of decoration.

Pinwheels and Garden Spinners: If you’re trying to draw attention to your party, event or place of business, colorful garden spinners or flashy pinwheels do the job just as well as balloons without killing birds.

Tissue Paper Pompoms: For some color burst at parties or celebrations, these colorful tissue paper poof balls make beautiful hanging decorations. You can easily make your own and throw them in your compost when you’re done.

Floating flowers – For some, the upward drifting of balloons gives them a sense of letting go, at a funeral or memorial service. Floating flowers down a calm stream can give you the same feeling.