Those planning a major celebration any time soon will now need to reconsider their festivities and decor. Under a newly-amended Flagler County ordinance, it is now a violation to intentionally release, or organize the release of, balloons or sky lanterns into the atmosphere.
The Flagler County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve amending its ordinance to make it unlawful to release any amount of balloons outdoors, regardless of if it is biodegradable or photodegradable.
“It doesn’t prohibit balloons, it doesn’t prohibit celebrations with balloons, indoors or even outdoors,” said Assistant County Attorney Ronni Moore. “It does prohibit the intentional release of a balloon outdoors.”
Balloon remains that make their way into the ecosystem can be mistaken for food by local wildlife, causing intestinal blockages, in some cases leading to death. Additionally the strings attached to them can entangle animals, leaving them unable to move, breathe, or eat.
“Even a single balloon can wreak havoc in the environment, especially of the creatures that may ingest it,” Moore said. She stressed that even the balloon consortium of manufacturers does not approve of balloon releases.
The Balloon Council, an organization of retailers, distributors, and manufacturers, formed to educate about balloon safety, concurs. “Don’t let go: Inflate. Weight. Enjoy,” their website states.
The county’s revision comes just over a year since the Flagler Beach City Commission voted on a similar ban in January of last year. Being slightly more strict than the new county ordinance, Flagler Beach commissioners also decided to include a line stating that if balloons are tied outside and become loose and float away, it will be considered an intentional release.
“Everyone is acknowledging balloon releases for what they are, and that is an environmental hazard,” Commissioner Eric Cooley said at last year’s meeting.
The revised local ordinance limits balloons much more than state statutes, which only prohibit the release of 10 or more balloons within a 24-hour period by a person, firm, or corporation. However, current Florida Statutes do still recognize that balloons “[pose] a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals”.
At the state level, there have been bills introduced to amend the law to make it similar to what Flagler County has established, going so far as to remove the provision of ‘10 or more’. The only exceptions under this proposed state-level revision of balloons would be if they are:
- Released by a government agency
- A hot air balloon
- For scientific or meteorological purposes
- By government contract
Flagler County will treat intentional releases of balloons and sky lanterns as littering going forward, and enforce them as such.
April 19, 2023 at 8:13 am
Excellent! Now if we can put an end to all of the other littering going on in our once-pristine county that would be great!