Two items you'll find at many a California celebration might soon be restricted if local legislators get their way, as a certain type of balloon faces tighter laws at the state level and the city of Berkeley considers banning plastic drinking straws from their little burg.
As you likely know, while Mylar balloons — the crinkly, metallic ones you've seen at many a shindig — are delightfully decorative in a way that traditional balloons can not ever be, they are the enemy of power lines, PG&E reminds us practically all the time.
According to the electricity giant, when the helium-filled balloons float free, they often end up hitting power lines and other equipment, causing shorts and knocking out power.
Mylar balloon caused today’s San Francisco outage. All power restored. Reminder: Keep metallic balloons tethered, away from electric lines.— PG&E (@PGE4Me) April 16, 2017
At a Sacramento rally Tuesday, Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk said that the balloons "caused nearly 1,900 outages in California in 2015" and "sparked wildfires that cost the state more than $3 million to put out," ABC 7 reports. That's why, for the second year in a row, Quirk is seeking restrictions on the items.
This follows a 2016 effort to ban their sales completely, Quirk says, an effort that floated away like a metallic happy face attached to a string. This time around, he wants to make it illegal for Californians to release the balloons into the air, building on a current ban that prohibits their release at civic events.
In addition to the power issue, Quirk is concerned about the trash their release leaves behind. "It's litter," he tells ABC 7. "If it goes into the ocean, fish and other wildlife can eat it," which makes you wonder just how many of those 38 million pieces of trash on that Pacific island were balloons.
Quirk's bill, which has already passed in the state Assembly, must now be approved by the state Senate. If implemented, fines for those who release the balloons could be as high as $100.
Meanwhile in Berkeley, their city council is looking to cut out plastic drinking straws the way they have plastic bags (and many, many other things). According to CBS 5, the members of Berkeley's city council banded together to propose a ban on plastic straws, suggesting that milkshake, bubble tea, or soda drinkers replace them with the far-more-expensive compostable straws.
About 500 million straws are thrown away each day in the US, alone, CBS 5 reports, with many ending up in the water (again, my mind goes to Trash Island). So now Berkeley's council is considering a law that would force restaurants to use paper or bamboo straws instead, or encourage people to bring their own reusable straws.
The greener straws are about eight times as expensive as the plastic ones, which makes it likely that straw-using restaurants will pass the cost on to consumers. And not only do they cost more, but they apparently suck (ha ha get it) as CBS 5 reports that "compostable straws aren’t strong enough for smoothies and paper straws will sag if you take too long to drink."
Given that, drinkers might want to look into carrying around a couple of those reusable metal straws, even though, as one area resident complained, “It sounds a little messy, a drippy straw." But saggy or messy straws are apparently OK with Berkeley's city council, as "leaders believe they will pass this ban early next year." If the ban passes, Berkeley will be the first California city to ban plastic straws... but given how many other prohibitions have started there and moved across the state, it's unlikely to be the last.