ENCINITAS, Calif. – Encinitas City Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to ban the sale or use of balloons filled with any gas lighter than air, namely helium.

The ban applies to balloon wholesalers, retailers and vendors and will go into place 30 days after the next council meeting planned for Feb. 9. City leaders say the ordinance was proposed to address plastic pollution, marine debris, impact on marine life, land animals, birds and wildfire danger.

Encinitas has long been looking for ways to make the city more environmentally friendly. The idea for the balloon ban first was proposed in 2020 as a way to reduce plastic pollution.

Discussion of the ordinance brought out passionate debate for people, both for and against the proposal.

“My friends here are not single-use plastics,” said Treb Heining, who has been working in the balloon industry for more than 50 years. “They are offended by being eliminated from the city of Encinitas in a balloon ban.”

Heining added, “Latex balloons are 100% biodegradable. If you say they aren’t, you’re very ignorant.”

Others like Mark O’Conner, a volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation, brought a bucket of more than 180 latex and mylar balloons recently recovered between Swamis and Beacons beach. 

Council members urged companies to start shifting their business models. Representatives from national retailers like Party City even joined the conversation.

“Party City is committed to creating joy in a sustainable way,” Party City district team leader Terri Bennon said. “We share the priority of the environmental responsibility and recognize the good intentions behind this resolution, but it will negatively impact retailers.”