Understanding the Effects of Balloon Litter

As of July 1st, 2021 the intentional release of balloons is illegal in Virginia and carries a fine of $25 per balloon.

Littered balloons end up in our waterways and on our beaches, They harm and can kill turtles, whales, and dolphin that ingest them thinking they are food. The ribbons get tangled around bird wings and are often impossible for them to remove.

Thank you to all the organizations and individuals that made this bill possible.


ALL released balloons return to the land and water as a particularly insidious form of pollution.  They are deadly to marine animals and birds. There are many examples of sea turtles mistaking a balloon in the water for a jelly fish which happens to be one of their favorite foods.  Or of a gull, cormorant, or pelican whose wings or beak are fatally wrapped and impaired by the ribbon from a balloon.


Organizations like the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Clean Virginia Waterways, Christina Trapani Consulting and Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program have been involved with monitoring coastal shorelines, water quality, and marine animal health in the state for more than 25 years. Aquarium staff have conducted coastal surveys, responded to stranded animals, and identified and documented the impacts of balloons on the environment.

Since 2012, these organizations have been collecting data to better understand the sources, impacts, and accumulation patterns of littered balloons. You can help add to this data. If you find a littered balloon anywhere in Virginia or in its coastal waters you can report it here.




People continue to purchase balloons with the intent to release them and are, in fact, purposefully, but perhaps unknowingly, littering. There are alternatives to balloon releases.  Plant a tree in someone’s memory. Write your wishes on little pieces of paper and store them to retrieve at a later date.  Use bubbles to celebrate a joyous occasion. Please do not release balloons. And be aware that there is no such thing as a biodegradable balloon.

For more Inspirational litter-free ideas to celebrate, to remember and to honor the people who impact our lives visit


In short, the best plan is to not use balloons outdoors.

Our ocean wildlife thanks you!


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