SANTA CRUZ — Say goodbye to those little hotel shampoo bottles.
In what officials believe to be the first ordinance of its kind nationwide, Santa Cruz County approved a ban on small, single-use plastic bottles of personal care products in hotels, vacation rentals and other visitor accommodations in the unincorporated county.
Instead, the hotels would need to stock rooms with larger bottles, dispensers or another alternative — as long as the bottles are larger than 12 ounces. Hosted rentals, where the owner is present on the property, are exempt.
Unanimously approved by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Nov. 20, the ordinance is scheduled to return before the board for final adoption Dec. 4.
It would go into effect Dec. 31, 2020, a delay designed to cushion the local hospitality industry and give hoteliers a chance to use up existing stock.
Officials say the ban is a natural next step in the county’s ongoing effort to cut back on plastic waste to protect public health and the Monterey Bay’s ecosystem.
Similar policies are already in the works at major hotel chains including the Marriott and Hilton.
And rather than put a damper on local tourism, officials say the ban will bolster the industry in the long-term by helping to protect the natural beauty that attracts more than a million visitors to Santa Cruz County each year.
“Tourism is one of our leading industries, and many of our visitors come for Monterey Bay and our pristine beaches,” said Zach Friend, the 2nd District Santa Cruz County supervisor who brought the ordinance forward, in a statement. “Single-use plastics have dire consequences for these ecosystems and threaten our local economy, and we must act locally to protect them.”
The county’s business community appears to be largely in agreement. Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Casey Beyer said he doesn’t expect pushback from the hospitality industry. “Anything we do to protect our bay is important from a business standpoint,” he said.
Hotelier Steve Allen, who operates the Rio Sands Hotel in Aptos and the Capitola Venetian, agreed.
“Taking steps to protect Monterey Bay and our local ecosystems is not only environmentally responsible, it is good business,” Allen said in a statement.
The Rio Sands and Capitola Venetian have each done away with the little shampoo bottles to cut back on waste, as have smaller businesses such as the Sand Rock Farm Bed and Breakfast in Aptos.