Releasing latex balloons in Fairfax is now equivalent to littering.
The Fairfax Town Council on Wednesday night adopted an ordinance prohibiting the release of latex balloons in town to protect fish and wildlife.
Fairfax resident Mimi Newton, chair of the town’s Open Space Committee and a staff attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency, originally asked the council to ban latex balloon releases, citing concerns about environmental impacts.
“While releasing thousands of balloons in the air might provide a quick thrill for humans, it is the start of years of potential trouble for the rest of the planet’s inhabitants,” Newton wrote in the town’s staff report.
Mylar balloon releases are already prohibited in California, but the balloon industry calls latex balloons “biodegradable” while ignoring the time it takes latex to biodegrade (which could be up to a year in the water) and the risks latex creates in nature, according to the staff report:
“The environmental reality is that balloons, even latex balloons or those promoted as “biodegradable,” are often mistaken for food by marine creatures, and that the ribbons used to tie them can become entangled in birds’ breaks, and around the necks of birds and both land and marine animals.”
A balloon may look like a jellyfish to a turtle and may resemble a squid to a whale, according to Newton.
In the staff report, Newton said that while latex balloons that rise to an altitude of 5 miles will become brittle and shatter into many pieces, many balloons don’t reach such great heights and instead fall into the rivers or the sea, where they will take over a year to degrade.
Before the council adopted the ordinance late on Wednesday night, only Newton spoke during public comment with a simple “yay.” The council unanimously OK’d the ban.
Newton told Patch she only knows of a few East Coast states that also have a ban on releasing latex balloons.