Senior Editor
Balloons are banned in Laguna Beach

Want to celebrate with balloons in public in Laguna Beach, California? Don’t. Photos: Unsplash

The Inertia

The Laguna Beach, California City Council has decided that balloons won’t be allowed in public areas. The ban will take effect in 2024.

Laguna Beach, situated on an idyllic slice of California’s coastline, has about 23,000 residents, some of which, one can only assume, like balloons. Balloons, however, are decidedly bad for the environment, especially when they’re blown up and released.

According to the University of Melbourne, they take around 450 years to decompose, which is a long time considering that we just blow them up so we can celebrate whatever it is we’re briefly celebrating.

The City Council’s decision came after a vote on Tuesday night, and it bans the use of balloons on public property or at city events. It’s not the first city in California to limit the use of balloons, and it likely won’t be the last.


“This is the beginning,” Chad Nelsen, chief executive of the nonprofit environmental organization Surfrider Foundation, said before the vote.

Balloons, you see, are often found tangled around turtles and sea lions, similar to plastic bags. Occasionally, animals will attempt to eat them, and balloons don’t exactly hold a lot of nutritional benefits.

“We’re chipping away at all these things we find and trying to clean up the ocean one item at a time,” Nelsen continued.

According to the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, more than 3,000 pieces of balloons were picked up by volunteers over a five year period in Virginia alone. California officials have also sounded the alarm about the dangers of foil balloons hitting power lines, which can potentially lead to a fire hazard. California Edison reported over a thousand power outages due to foil balloons in 2017.

Florida, Delaware, and New York all have coastal communities that have adopted policies that they hope will curb balloon pollution. Elsewhere in California, Manhattan Beach has banned foil balloons on public property and a handful of San Diego beach cities have clamped down on the release of balloons filled with any gas lighter than air.

In Laguna Beach, anyone caught using balloons in public could be fined $100 for a first violation. A second violation could result in a $200 fine and any subsequent violations could result in a fine of $500. Any businesses that break the ordinance could potentially lose their licenses. It wasn’t a tough decision to make, either.

“Even the balloon advocates and balloon industry was not opposed to banning them on the beach,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “There is going to be some impact on the local distribution of balloons, but as I say, people will still find places to buy balloons.”

But at least one person isn’t too thrilled with the idea. Treb Heining told the Associated Press that balloons shouldn’t be vilified. Heining began selling balloons at Disneyland when he was a teenager and now works internationally in the balloon industry.

“All my life, I’ve seen children thrilled — of all ages. You can still be a child at 90 years old,” he said. “They’re doing anything they can to make balloons into this evil, horrible thing. And they’re not.”


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.