California Coastal City Bans Balloons to Protect Environment

Balloons have a detrimental impact on our waterways and the ocean, and one California city has joined a trend of banning the popular party item, in an effort to safeguard their coastline.

This week, the Laguna Beach City Council voted to ban the sale and use of balloons on public property or at city events. The ban will take effect in 2024. First-time violators will face a $100 fine, with a $200 fine for a second violation. Each further violation within a year would cost someone $500. The ban does not apply to use in homes.


Chad Nelsen, chief executive of environmental nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, says, “This is the beginning. We’re chipping away at all these things we find and trying to clean up the ocean one item at a time.”

Balloons are a contributor to plastic pollution, often accumulating on coastlines, beaches, and waterways. This can impact marine life, which may eat balloon pieces, believing them to be food. Ingesting these pieces can make them feel full when they’ve not actually eaten anything of nutritional value, which can lead to starvation, and it can cause intestinal obstruction. As the balloons get further broken down into smaller pieces, they also contribute to the microplastics issue.

Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen says, “Even the balloon advocates and balloon industry was not opposed to banning them on the beach.”


It isn’t just beaches that can be impacted. Whalen says the ban also aims to address wildfire risk. Mylar balloons can cause fires by bumping into power lines. They’re also a huge contributor to power outages, with one California utility alone tracing more than 1,000 outages back to mylar balloons in 2019.

Recognizing this problem, several organizations banded together to help get the balloon ban passed in Laguna Beach. That included the Surfrider Foundation, Project O, Laguna Bluebelt, Laguna Ocean Foundation, and Laguna Canyon Foundation.

Other Southern California cities have taken similar steps, with Manhattan Beach banning the sale and distribution of mylar balloons and restricting their presence at public outdoor spaces, as well as banning the mass release of latex balloons. Glendale and Hermosa Beach have also placed bans on mylar balloons.

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