By Steve Plunkett
Boca Raton City Council member Monica Mayotte wants to banish balloons from all city property as well as foam food containers and cups.
She broke the news at the May 17 meeting of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, then introduced her proposed ordinance at the council’s May 25 meeting.
“I just wanted to let you guys know since you help us operate and maintain our parks,” she told the Beach and Park commissioners.
Commissioner Robert Rollins called the proposed ban “a great move.”
“I think it’s long in coming,” District Chair Susan Vogelgesang said.
Mayotte said her proposal would prohibit polystyrene foam containers “from being used on city property and at city events and also not (allow) balloons or confetti to be used in any of our city parks or any city property.”
Palm Beach County banned balloons at its beach parks in September 2017, and soon afterward Beach and Park Commissioner Craig Ehrnst began lobbying the city to do the same without success.
“I couldn’t understand why Boca wouldn’t at least follow the county on the Mylar balloons at a minimum because the Mylar balloons — we all support Gumbo Limbo — Mylar balloons and all the things that go with other plastics end up with the turtles, and that’s terrible,” Ehrnst said.
Mayotte said the public hearing and council vote on the proposed ordinance would be June 8, which is also World Oceans Day. Enforcement would not begin until Jan. 1, after a public information campaign.
During World Oceans Day in 2017, sea turtle specialists at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center showed a 20-foot-by-5-foot “blanket” they had taped together from 53 Mylar balloons they collected in five days of walking the beach.
The balloons, they said, would not disintegrate for 50 to 100 years, giving endangered turtles plenty of time to mistake them for tasty jellyfish.
In March 2019, Mayotte unsuccessfully urged her colleagues to ban the use of plastic straws. Instead, council members said they would rely on Boca Raton’s voluntary Coastal Connection program, which rates environmentally friendly restaurants.