Mass balloon releases are illegal in several states, cities, and countries. Releasing balloons and sky lanterns should be illegal everywhere, because after all, it is simply littering.
States that have laws: California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia.
Cities that have laws: Ocean City, Maryland; Louisville, Kentucky; Huntsville, Alabama; San Francisco, California; Nantucket, Massachusetts; Provincetown, Massachusetts; and Baltimore, Maryland.
Laws in other countries: Plymouth-UK, New South Wales-Australia, Sunshine Coast-Queensland-Australia.
653.1. (a) No person shall sell or distribute any balloon which is constructed of electrically conductive material, and filled with a gas lighter than air without:
(1) Affixing an object of sufficient weight to the balloon or its appurtenance to counter the lift capability of the balloon.
(2) Affixing a statement on the balloon, or ensuring that a statement is so affixed, that warns the consumer about the risk if the balloon comes in contact with electrical power lines.
(3) A printed identification of the manufacturer of the balloon.
(b) No person shall sell or distribute any balloon filled with a gas lighter than air, which is attached to an electrically conductive string, tether, streamer, or other electrically conductive appurtenance.
(c) No person shall sell or distribute any balloon which is constructed of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air, which, is attached to another balloon constructed of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air.
(d) No person or group shall release, outdoors, balloons made of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air, as part of a public or civic event, promotional activity, or product advertisement.
(e) Any person who violates subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) shall be guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100). Any person who violates subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) who has been previously convicted twice of violating subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(f) This section shall not apply to manned hot air balloons, or to balloons used in governmental or scientific research projects.
Fairfax County, California – Ban on release of latex balloons
Release of lighter-than-air balloons restricted. Penalty Title 26> Chapter 490 > § 26-25c
a) No person, nonprofit organization, firm or corporation, including the state and its political subdivisions, shall knowingly release, organize the release of or intentionally cause to be released into the atmosphere within a twenty-four-hour period ten or more helium or other lighter-than-air gas balloons in the state.
(b) Any violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be an infraction.
*Florida does not recognize any balloon as “biodegradable”.*
(1) The Legislature finds that the release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals.
(2) It is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to intentionally release, organize the release, or intentionally cause to be released within a 24-hour period 10 or more balloons inflated with a gas that is lighter than air except for:
(a) Balloons released by a person on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological purposes;
(b) Hot air balloons that are recovered after launching;
(c) Balloons released indoors; or
(d) Balloons that are either biodegradable or photodegradable, as determined by rule of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and which are closed by a hand-tied knot in the stem of the balloon without string, ribbon, or other attachments. In the event that any balloons are released pursuant to the exemption established in this paragraph, the party responsible for the release shall make available to any law enforcement officer evidence of the biodegradability or photodegradability of said balloons in the form of a certificate executed by the manufacturer. Failure to provide said evidence shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this act.
(3) Any person who violates subsection (2) is guilty of a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a fine of $250.
(4) Any person may petition the circuit court to enjoin the release of 10 or more balloons if that person is a citizen of the county in which the balloons are to be released.
i. A ban on the sale and/or use of any type of balloon (including, and not limited to, plastic, latex or Mylar balloons) to be inflated with any type of lighter than air gas (including, and not limited to, helium gas). People importing such novelties from off-island, but disposing of them on-island in any manner other than being contained in a plastic trash bag and transported to the Landfill, shall be fined pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 1, Article II by Noncriminal Disposition at $50 per offense.
13. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES … 13-2-14. Prohibition of helium-filled balloons. The sale, use, and distribution of helium filled balloons, both for public and private use, is prohibited.
Releasing of Sky Lanterns prohibited by NH State Fire Code – for Immediate Release
December 21, 2012: Unless tethered, releasing sky lanterns is considered a violation of the NH State Fire Code.
*This bill never became law due to the Balloon Council.*
AN ACT relative to balloons being released into the air.
163-B:3 Unlawful Activities.
II. It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally release or intentionally cause to be released into the atmosphere one or more balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases
III. Any person who violates the provisions of RSA 163-B:3, II, relative to balloon release, shall be guilty of a violation and fined $250 for the first offense and $500 for each subsequent offense.
*This is an active bill that has yet to become law.*
S 2. The environmental conservation law is amended by adding two new sections 11-0331 and 71-0929 to read as follows:
S 11-0331. Release of certain balloons prohibited.
1. No business, firm, corporation or association shall knowingly or intentionally release or cause to be released at any single outdoor celebration, promotional activity, sporting or other public event within a twenty-four hour period more than twenty-five balloons filled with helium or other substance which causes the balloon to rise or float in the atmosphere. This section shall not apply to:
(a) balloons which are used for the purpose of carrying scientific instrumentation during the performance of an experiment or testing procedure or by a person on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological purposes; (b) hot air balloons that are recovered after launching; (c) balloons released indoors. explanation–matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. lbd00936-01-1
2. Notwithstanding subdivision one of this section, no business, firm, corporation, or association shall knowingly or intentionally cause to be released any balloons if such balloons:
(a) are made from metallized nylon, metallized plastic, or any foil-like substance; or (b) have any strings, ribbons, or other materials attached to them.
S 71-0929. Enforcement of section 11-0331 of this chapter. any violation of section 11-0331 of this chapter shall be punishable by a civil penalty of ten dollars for each balloon released in excess of the limits set forth in such section, not to exceed fifty thousand dollars.
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
§ 92.31 UNLAWFUL TO RELEASE BALLOONS ON TOWN PROPERTY, BEACH FRONT AND WATERS SURROUNDING THE TOWN.
It shall be unlawful for any person to litter by releasing inflated balloons in or on or by discarding balloons in or on any property owned by the town, any waters within the zoning jurisdiction of the town as established pursuant to the provisions of G.S. § 160A-360 or the beach front as defined in this chapter of the Town Code. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be subject to a civil penalty in the amount of $250 to be recovered by the town in a civil action in the nature of debt if the offender does not pay the penalty within ten days after having been cited for violation of the ordinance. In accordance with G.S. § 160A-175(b), any person violating the provisions of this section shall not be subject to the penalty provisions of G.S. § 14-4 and such action shall not be considered a breach of the penal laws of the state.
(Ord. 1642, passed 11-18-10
(a) No person, including an officer or employee of this state or any political subdivision of the state, shall knowingly release into the atmosphere more than twenty-five (25) balloons that are:
(1) (A) Made of a nonbiodegradable material; or
(B) Made of a biodegradable material that requires more than several minutes of contact with air or water to degrade; and
(2) Filled with helium or another substance that causes the balloons to rise or float in the atmosphere.
(b) Any person violating subsection (a) is subject to a civil penalty of two hundred fifty dollars ($250). Each balloon released in a single day, without a permit, in excess of the limit imposed in subsection (a), constitutes a separate violation.
(c) This section does not apply to weather balloons that are used for the purpose of carrying scientific instruments during the performance of an experiment or testing procedure.
§ 29.1-556.1. Release of certain balloons prohibited; civil penalty.
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly release or cause to be released into the atmosphere within a one-hour period fifty or more balloons which are (i) made of a nonbiodegradable or nonphotodegradable material or any material which requires more than five minutes’ contact with air or water to degrade and (ii) inflated with a substance which is lighter than air. Any person who violates this section shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed five dollars per balloon released above the allowable limit, which shall be paid into the Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Endowment Fund established pursuant to § 29.1-101.1.
B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) balloons released by or on behalf of any agency of the Commonwealth, or the United States or pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth, the United States, or any other state, territory or government for scientific or meteorological purposes or (ii) hot air balloons that are recovered after launch. (1991, c. 607.)
This law is in Title 29 of the Code of Virginia, enforced by local law enforcement and prosecuted by local Commonwealth’s Attorney. So, if you know of any plans to release a large number of balloons into the air, notify local law enforcement. Be sure to quote the Code section, they may not be familiar with it.
Bookmark 521.08. Release of balloons.
(a) Council finds that the release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment.
(b) No person shall intentionally release, organize the release or intentionally cause to be released within a twenty-four hour period ten or more balloons inflated with a gas that is lighter than-air except for:
(1) Balloons released by a person on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological purposes;
(2) Hot air balloons that are recovered after launching; or
(3) Balloons released indoors.
(c) Whoever violates subsection (b) is guilty of a minor misdemeanor.
(Ord. 762-90. Passed 7-31-90.)
Appendix 16 – Balloon releases Balloon releases are banned from Plymouth City Council owned land; this is designed to protect land and marine animals.
Schedule 1 Amendment of Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (Section 3)  Section 146E Insert after section 146D: 146E Restrictions on release of balloons (1) Offence of releasing balloons A person who releases 20 or more balloons at or about the same time is guilty of an offence if the balloons are inflated with a gas that causes them to rise in the air. Maximum penalty (for a corporation or an individual): 10 penalty units. (2) Offence of causing or permitting release of balloons A person who causes or permits the release (whether by one or more than one person) of 20 or more balloons at or about the same time is guilty of an offence if the balloons are inflated with a gas that causes them to rise in the air. Maximum penalty (for a corporation or an individual): 10 penalty units. (3) Aggravated offence A person is guilty of an aggravated offence under this subsection if the person commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2) and the number of balloons released is more than 100. Maximum penalty (instead of any penalty under subsection (1) or (2)): • in the case of a corporation—55 penalty units, or • in the case of an individual—33 penalty units. (4) Exceptions Subsections (1)–(3) do not apply if: (a) the balloons are released unintentionally and without negligence, or Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Balloons) Act 2000 No 82 Schedule 1 Amendment of Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 Page 4 (b) the balloons are released inside a building or structure and do not make their way into the open air, or (c) the balloons are hot air balloons that are recovered after landing, or (d) the balloons are released for scientific (including meteorological) purposes. (5) Aggravation not proved If the court is satisfied that a person charged with an offence under subsection (3) is not guilty of that offence but is satisfied on the evidence that the person is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (2), the court may find the person guilty of the offence under subsection (1) or (2), and the person is liable to punishment accordingly. (6) Evidence In any proceedings under this section: (a) it is not necessary for the prosecutor to establish the exact number of balloons released, and (b) evidence that a balloon rose in the air after being released is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence that the balloon was inflated with a gas that caused it to rise in the air.
The intentional releasing of helium balloons into the atmosphere is prohibited under Local Law No. 3 (Community Health and Environment Management) 2011.