A Virginia law that went into effect Thursday prohibits the release of balloons outdoors, with a fine of $25 per balloon.
The new law applies to anyone 16 or older who intentionally releases or discards any non-biodegradable balloons outdoors. Fines will go toward the Game Protection Fund.
State Del. Nancy Guy (D), who sponsored the bill, told The Virginian Pilot that she hopes the law will raise awareness of how the damage to the environment caused by balloons.
“I don’t think people do these balloon releases out of malice; they do it out of ignorance about how dire these impacts can be,” she said. “By having a statute on the books that makes it subject to a fine, it’s now possible for environmental groups to publicize that fact.”
Joan Kark, a supporter of the bill, told ABC News affiliate WRIC that she petitioned Virginia Tech University to stop releasing balloons because livestock can consume balloon debris that in turn can lead to animal deaths.
“Why would you want to risk danger to wildlife to commemorate someone?” Kark asked.
Charles Willis, executive director of United Communities Against Crime, told WRIC that for some families, releasing balloons is a way to mourn the death of loved ones.
He said legislators should focus on more “important issues” including gun violence and police reform.