Balloon releases get eliminated by County

By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter

The Sussex County Council last week passed a resolution designed to eliminate balloon releases at celebratory events.

Proposed by Councilman Irwin G. “I.G.” Burton, the resolution is the result of last week’s Odyssey of the Mind team presentation before the county council. Students on the team, who attend Beacon Middle School in Lewes, asked councilmen to support their Never Let Them Go Campaign, aimed at stopping floating balloons that fall to earth as trash and threaten wildlife.

At the Oct. 29 council meeting, Burton praised students for their dedication and involvement, and for their plan to get a state law passed to stop balloon releases. They have the support of state Sens. Ernesto Lopez and Stephanie Hansen, he said.

“To get kids involved in something like this at their age, and what they wanted to do, I think is important for the county, important for the state, and it’s important for planning,” Burton said, moving to pass the resolution.

The resolution states released balloons return to earth and end up in waterways, where they can choke turtles and other animals that mistake them for food. Even balloons that are biodegradable take months or years to break down.

The resolution encourages alternatives for celebrating, such as reusable banners and flags, or planting trees or memorial gardens.

Students who spoke at the Oct. 22 meeting, under the direction of teacher Alisha Fletcher, were Addison Bowman, Stephen Hart, Sam Gossett, Darcy Crotty, Sophia Massaro, Gina Gruwell and Elisha Lawson.

“Balloons have killed birds, whales, sea turtles, and other wild and domestic animals. When an animal swallows a balloon, it can block its intestinal tract, leading to starvation. Sea turtles and other marine creatures are known to confuse balloons with jellies,” one student said.

“We have big ideas for how to make the public more aware of how dangerous balloons are,” another said, explaining that a sign will be erected on beaches, warning against balloon liberation.

A student said Hansen, an environment attorney, drafted a bill to stop the intentional release of balloons outdoors. If passed into law, it would carry a $500 fine for releasing five or more balloons, not including those floated for scientific purposes, hot air balloons or those let go indoors.

Council President Mike Vincent thanked the students and complimented their presentation.

“It was very good, very informative,” he said.

“We really wanted to present the idea about the importance of this initiative to the county council and ask them to consider supporting us. We want it to be supported countywide, to help it gain further support as it moves through state legislature,” Fletcher said.

She said Burton would visit the school to tell students about the county council’s resolution.