The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance banning the sale or use of any balloons, mylar, latex or otherwise, within the City during its Jan. 24 meeting. Balloons will still be allowed in private and commercial areas. The ban comes after multiple environmental organizations expressed concern about how discarded balloon litter negatively affects Laguna’s ocean and open spaces.
Founder of local non-profit Project O, Rich German, said it feels fantastic to have an initiative he started back in 2017 finally come to fruition.
“We had a petition that thousands of people signed, but unfortunately, it just didn’t go anywhere with the city council back then,” German said. “It wasn’t until we formed an incredible coalition that included many other local non-profits, including Laguna Bluebelt, Laguna Ocean Foundation, Laguna Canyon Foundation, and Surfrider Foundation and others, that we got the ball rolling. We got the Environmental Sustainability Committee on board, local businesses and concerned citizens. It was when we formed that coalition that we got the ban through, which we did last night.”
The ban is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, to allow businesses time to adapt and for the City to educate the public on the new ordinance.
“We were super happy with the direction the council took,” German said. We pushed for a ban on all balloons, and they agreed. So basically, the sale and release of all balloons will now be prohibited in Laguna Beach.”
During the public comment portion of the discussion, Laguna Canyon Foundation Executive Director Hallie Jones told Councilmembers the foundation constantly finds balloons, whether mylar or latex, in the ocean and open space.
“The fire danger is obviously very real, but the litter danger is also a problem for the open space and wildlife as well,” Jones said.
However, the decision to ban balloons wasn’t met with enthusiasm from everyone. Representatives from Party City or California Grocers Association told Council that the ban would punish local businesses and drive balloon sales outside the City.
“As community members, California Grocers appreciate the City’s focus on sustainability and the environment. However, regarding this ordinance, we believe the impact doesn’t match the intent,” said Tim James, representing Laguna Beach grocers. “It creates unintended consequences for Laguna Beach grocers while rewarding retailers not located within the City. At this time, we request the Council visits other alternatives and not move forward with the ordinance. As written, the ordinance will simply push balloon sales outside the City to neighboring cities or online sources. This significantly impacts local grocers, as we are a low-profit, high-volume industry.”
German said balloons are symbolic of a bigger problem.
“Some people might not think this is a big deal,” he said. “But what is a big deal is all the plastics, the fishing line, and fishing gear that endanger wildlife. So for me, my biggest concern is marine animals. These balloons also are a massive fire hazard, and they’re just pollution. So I want to acknowledge the City of Laguna Beach for taking a stand and being a leader in environmental sustainability. We hope that other cities will follow our lead.”