Minto to discourage mass balloon launches

Town council is attempting to put a halt to mass balloon launches within municipal borders.

At the June 2 Minto council meeting local citizen Jacqueline Villemaire presented information on the damage mass balloon releases can do to the environment and asked council to amend the littering bylaw to prevent the practice.

A report from bylaw officer Cam Forbes at the Aug. 11 meeting noted balloons burst and fracture into small pieces at high altitude.

“Some of these pieces will land within the boundaries of the Town of Minto, but most will land on our neighbouring communities. These pieces, once they land, can take up to four years to decompose. While these pieces are decomposing, they can be ingested by livestock or by wildlife and once ingested the decomposition of the balloon slows considerably,” the report notes.

The report also points out there are many American states and some cities in Canada that do not allow the mass release of balloons and some that allow the release of only small numbers of balloons at a time.

“The practice tends to occur around memorials and other sensitive personal events,” Forbes stated in the report.

One option, he suggested, is to prohibit balloon releases except for bio-degradable products for personal or private memorial purposes and not for typical special events or celebrations.

Forbes told council that even though the Environmental Protection Act states releasing balloons is littering, “they don’t enforce it. They’ve never heard of it.”

Mayor George Bridge agreed banning mass balloon launches would be better enforced provincially.

“We can’t ban balloons, because people are going to fill balloons up with helium, they’re going to be at birthday parties, they’re going to be at everything else,” said Bridge.

Councillor David Turton suggested rather than creating a bylaw to ban mass balloon launches, the town could contact the few groups known to have regular balloon launches and ask them to reconsider the practice.

CAO Bill White suggested a clause banning mass launches could be written into rental agreements for municipal facilities.

“That covers a lot of events,” White noted.

Council approved a resolution agreeing to pursue the issue through public education, including contacting the groups known to hold balloon launches and to adjust municipal facility rental agreements to prohibit the practice.