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Encinitas helium balloons
The Encinitas City Council approved a resolution banning helium balloons in the city. File photo
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Encinitas council unanimously bans helium balloons

ENCINITAS — Helium balloons are now a thing of the past in the city of Encinitas. 

Joining other municipalities in the state, the Encinitas City Council voted unanimously this week to ban the use, sale and distribution of helium-filled balloons in the city. 

The city’s Environmental Commission presented the resolution, receiving support from every member on the dias.

“I think we need to be reducing plastics in every possible way and the more that we chip away at it the more sustainable our world becomes,” said Mayor Catherine Blakespear. 

According to the commission, helium balloons are a significant contributor to ocean pollution and other general litter in the city. Commissioners also said helium, being a finite resource on the planet, is in short supply and needed for other societal uses. 

Mark O’Connor, Encinitas local, volunteer for the Surfrider Foundation and member of the city’s Environmental Commission, gave statistics for the amount of balloons picked up along the beaches in San Diego. 

“In 2019, data locally for this county shows 3173 balloons were recovered. Many people collect balloons and they don’t report them so that number is very low,” O’Connor said. 

In 1990, California legislators passed a state law prohibiting the release of certain types of helium-filled balloons and requiring balloons sold in the state include warnings related to the state regulations.

However, O’Connor said it’s not enough. 

“These are not working by the amount of balloons that we are recovering,” O’Connor said. 

Treb Heining, a balloon business owner based out of Newport Beach, spoke about what he claims are misconceptions of helium balloons in an effort to sway the council. 

Heining claims that latex balloons are biodegradable and therefore unharmful to the environment. He also downplayed the danger to marine life when balloons return to Earth in the ocean. 

“We all want the same thing. We want clean beaches,” Heining said. “But do not eliminate the joy, happiness and awe that balloons create because the actions of few should not dictate the actions for many that enjoy it.”

Councilmember Tony Kranz, unswayed by Heining’s testimony, said the impact on the environment was more than enough for him to support the new ordinance. 

“My obligation to protect the environment is driven in large part by the 5.6 or so miles of ocean that we have here,” Kranz said. “It does not bring me any joy that an ordinance like this will impact the livelihood of people who make their business in selling or creating joy with balloons.” 

And while Heining and others who make their livings selling helium balloons claimed that joy will be lost with new bans against their product, Blakespear had a different outlook. 

“I think joy is created in a lot of different ways and I think humans will always find ways to create joy because it is part of the core of being a human,” Blakespear said. “So we don’t need to have plastics to do that. I understand there is a sentimental loss for some around this but it is something I wholeheartedly support.”