Why a California Seaside City Simply Banned Balloons

Laguna Seaside, California
Photograph: Apu Gomes (Getty Photographs)

This story was initially printed by Grist. You’ll be able to subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.

Celebrations in a beachside California metropolis will quickly should happen with out an iconic, single-use get together favor: balloons.

Town council of Laguna Seaside, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, voted Tuesday to ban the sale and use of all sorts of balloons, citing their contribution to ocean litter in addition to well being and security dangers from potential fires after they hit energy strains. Beginning in 2024, folks utilizing balloons on public property or at metropolis occasions might incur fines of up to $500 for every violation. (Balloons used solely inside folks’s residences are exempt from the ban.)

The vote is a part of a rising nationwide motion to limit balloon use, in addition to a broader item-by-item push to limit problematic single-use merchandise like plastic straws and luggage. For now, most balloon-related state and metropolis laws solely targets the intentional release of helium-filled balloons, however specialists say outright bans are gaining traction as folks higher perceive their environmental penalties. Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 2016 banned any balloon full of a fuel that’s lighter than air, and there are related bans in locations like East Hampton, New York, and Solana Beach and Encinitas, California.

“Plastic within the ocean and surroundings typically is gaining extra consideration,” Chad Nelsen, chief government of the nonprofit environmental group Surfrider Basis, instructed Grist. “It’s good that individuals are these disposable, single-use gadgets that we’ve got been utilizing daily and never excited about the results.” He stated California seashore cleanups organized by Surfrider in 2022 collected a complete of almost 2,500 balloons.”

Balloons, particularly these full of helium, usually grow to be ocean air pollution after only a few hours of use. These product of latex — a sort of gentle, artificial or pure materials which will take decades to break down — may be mistaken for meals by marine animals and birds. When ingested, latex can conform to birds’ abdomen cavities, inflicting nutrient deficiency or suffocation.

Balloons product of mylar, a sort of plastic coated in skinny metallic, principally by no means break down. “They stick round actually till the tip of time,” Kara Wiggin, a doctoral researcher on the Scripps Establishment of Oceanography, instructed me. The plastic strings connected to them can strangle marine life after which chip into microplastics that contaminate consuming water and the meals chain.

Mylar balloons also can get tangled in energy strains, resulting in energy outages or fires. Based on the town of Riverside, California, balloons induced greater than 1,300 minutes of energy outages for its publicly owned water and electrical utility in 2021. Different cities and utilities report thousands of ratepayers losing power each year when balloons get caught in energy strains.

Wiggin stated balloons are only a small a part of society’s broader dependancy to single-use gadgets, however that banning them is “low-hanging fruit.” “We don’t throw issues purposefully into the surroundings, however we regularly do this with balloons,” she instructed Grist. “That’s a apply that must be stopped.”

Nelsen stated there are plenty of balloon-free ways to keep the fun going, together with paper-based decorations, streamers, flags, kites, and pinwheels — lots of which may be safely reused dozens of instances. “Let’s discover a solution to rejoice children’ birthdays with out killing marine life,” he stated.

This text initially appeared in Grist at https://grist.org/cities/heres-why-a-california-beach-town-just-banned-balloons/. Grist is a nonprofit, impartial media group devoted to telling tales of local weather options and a simply future. Study extra at Grist.org

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