Beacon Middle students fight balloon releases

Students receive county council resolution in support
November 27, 2019

A group of Beacon Middle students opposed to balloon releases received an official resolution in support of their efforts at a Nov. 18 ceremony at the school.

Sussex County Councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton said he was impressed when students presented their ideas to halt balloon releases to Sussex County Council Oct. 22, when lawmakers unanimously passed the resolution.

“To attack the balloon industry is something that would never have passed,” he said. “The way you explained it was an excellent job. It was not an attack on the industry; it was an attack on letting them go, and that is how you got it approved.”

Burton said now that students have county support, the next step is for them to convince state legislators.

“Be who you are - the smart ones in the room,” he said. “I hope you use this resolution as an endorsement from Sussex County when you go to the state.”

Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, also in attendance, told students he was proud of them for working to solve a problem that affects their ecosystem.

“The best ideas don’t come from us,” he said. “They come organically from our constituents, friends and neighbors.”

Lopez said he went to a retirement party at the University of Delaware 20 years ago, when more than 100 balloons were released during the celebration.

“Later, a dairy farmer in New Jersey called to say one of his cows had died mysteriously,” he said. “They found one of the retirement balloons in the cow’s stomach when they did the autopsy.”

The students’ Odyssey of the Mind coach Alisha Fletcher said students were prompted to do something when they were disturbed by balloon debris they found while doing a cleanup along Lewes Beach last year.

Fletcher said she tasked students over the summer to think about how they could help ban the release of biodegradable and nonbiodegradable balloons to protect the habitat. 

“They determined that getting a resolution would mean support from county government,” she said.

Fletcher said students are working now to support a draft bill introduced by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, prohibiting the intentional release of balloons.

If passed, Delaware would join California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia in having laws that ban or restrict balloon releases. Lawmakers in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island are also working on bills to limit balloon releases.