Encinitas bans the sale of all helium-filled balloons – Advice Eating

The ribbons are wrapped around turtles, claws and wings of birds, found in the digestive tract of wild animals, and cause other dire consequences for animals.

ENCINITAS, Calif. – Dubbed the “zero-waste nightmare,” helium-filled balloons are a single-use plastic that’s also a major pollutant of the oceans. To reduce this waste, the city of Encinitas has banned the sale of lighter-than-air balloons. The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation was also instrumental in this push.

“We have been spot checking the companies that have been selling the balloons since the regulation was passed. And the compliance rate was absolutely incredible when the various stores they were selling stopped on their own. A select few, it was a corporate decision and needed something from the city to stop it, which they did,” said Mark O’Connor. This Coastal Defender is a co-lead on the Rise Above Plastics Committee for the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

This non-profit organization works to protect the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. When in Encinitas, you’ll often see Mark picking up single-use plastics and other trash to help keep Moonlight Beach clean.

“Well, that’s pretty typical, a plastic wrap. Can’t tell, looks like there may have been some food product in it,” Mark said while pointing out trash found on Encinitas Beach.

One of the biggest pollutants this Surfrider Volunteer found are balloons. Mark even has a jar of his insights, which he had on hand when he campaigned for the ban on helium-filled balloons at an Encinitas City Council meeting. Mark says he collects at least one balloon, on average, on each of his beach inspections.

“These are my approximately 190 to 200 balloons. I’ve stopped counting now. Yes, like I said, there are a few people who have given them to me as well. You can see there’s mylar and latex, all the ties,” said Mark as he showed the filled jar.

Marine conservation organizations and even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] a partner of the Surfrider Foundation, cites balloons as one of the top pollutants that have adverse effects on marine life.

“The latex is a bit heavier and only holds the air for about 24 hours and the mylar lasts about three weeks. So it seems a little heavier and it’s getting caught in the seaweed and I don’t know what Mother Nature is doing but she just needs to break free. 95 percent of the latex I reclaim is in the seaweed,” O’Connor said.

The sight of balloons littering the beach isn’t just pleasing to the eye. The attached ribbons can wrap around sea turtles, claws and wings of birds, be found in the digestive tract of wildlife, and cause other fatalities to animals.

As we strolled along the beach, I asked Mark why he thought the ban on lighter-than-air balloons in Encinitas was successful?

“This council, the people who are here are quite progressive. They love the marine environment. It’s part of tourism, part of who we are, its recreation, it provides sustenance,” O’Connor said.

Although Encinitas is the first city in our county to implement this ban, it appears they won’t be the last. Mark tells me that the Surfrider Foundation has tasked the Solana Beach City Council with pushing for a similar helium ban. The aim is to start along our coast and work your way inland.

But don’t twist it. This is not a ban on all balloons. Mark promoted the idea of ​​using air in balloons instead of light helium. He said when your celebration is over, deflate and properly dispose of the balloon in the trash.

O’Connor stressed this is an attempt to get businesses and you to get creative on how to celebrate in an environmentally friendly way.

“If you’d like to join us, or if you’re in a city or part of a city council and listening and need our help with that, you can email rap, rap@surfridersd. org. Tell us who you are, what you want to do and what city and how you can help, how you want to help and we will get those emails from that account. You’ll come to me and I’ll email you back, or we can meet up for coffee, a phone call or something,” O’Connor said.

In a previous Earth 8 story, I covered how helium-filled balloons can be carried all the way to the desert here in our eastern country due to westerly winds and pose a threat to wildlife. Mylar balloons are often reported along the hiking trails and countryside of Borrego Springs. Mark suggests checking out Balloonsblow for more eco-friendly ways to celebrate, no matter where you live.

Additionally, if you would like to help and/or volunteer with the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, just visit their website.

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