Santa Cruz County

Agenda Item
Approved with additional direction
Nov 20, 2018 9:00 AM

Consider proposed ordinance amending the Santa Cruz County Code by adding Chapter 5.49 relating to single-use personal care products in the hospitality industry, and schedule final adoption on December 4, 2018, as outlined in the memorandum of Supervisor Friend and Supervisor McPherson


Department:Board of Supervisors: Second DistrictSponsors:Second District Supervisor Zach Friend, Fifth District Supervisor Bruce McPherson
Category:BOS Second District - Board LetterFunctions:General Government

Board Letter

Recommended Action:

1)  Consider proposed ordinance regulating single-use plastic bottles of personal care products in hotel or motel rooms, vacation rentals, or other visitor accommodations in the unincorporated areas;

2)  Approve the ordinance in concept; and

3)  Schedule the ordinance for second reading and final adoption on December 4, 2018.


Executive Summary

Plastic waste, especially single-use plastics, contribute to a growing environmental concern both on land and in the ocean. Santa Cruz County, with our proximity to the Monterey Bay, is especially vulnerable to plastic waste and our community and local government agencies have made positive changes to limit single-use plastics from our marine environment. We propose working with the hospitality industry to further reduce plastic waste by establishing an ordinance that bans small single-use bottles for personal care products, replacing them with large bottles, dispensers, or other alternatives for hotel or motel rooms, vacation rentals, or other visitor accommodations in the unincorporated areas.



In 2017, Monterey-based photographer Justin Hofman was scuba diving off the coast of Subawa Island, Indonesia when he snapped a picture that became emblematic of a problem that plagues the world's ocean and threatens marine life - a tiny seahorse, clinging to a pink Q-tip. The image became a sensation, and though he was nominated for the London Natural History Museum's wildlife photographer of the year award, Hofman has said he wishes the picture didn't exist.


Plastics find their way into our ecosystem in many ways, from microplastics found in personal care products, toothpaste and even clothes, to larger plastics broken down over time and traveling through waste streams into the ocean. But one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste is single-use plastics, with the Monterey Bay Aquarium estimating that 300,000 pounds of plastics enter the world's oceans every nine minutes - approximately the weight of a blue whale.


Plastic is durable and persists longer than other types of litter. Litter left in parks and public places often finds its way into Monterey Bay, where is has a financial cost to residents and an environmental cost to our natural resources.


Expanded across the globe, the results are a growing environmental concern. Floating “garbage patches” now cover sections of the Pacific Ocean and are carried across the globe before arriving back on land, unwanted. In the marine environment, plastics pose a deadly threat to marine life because they are often mistaken for food. Scientists say plastics are found in the stomachs of half the world’s sea turtles and 90 percent of marine birds. Estimates show that absent a major change in consumer and waste management practices, the weight of plastics in the ocean will outweigh the weight of fish by 2050.


In Santa Cruz County, the issue is particularly pressing. The Monterey Bay is one of the world's natural treasures, part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and home to numerous native and migratory species, including humpback whales, grey whales, blue whales, orcas, white sharks, several varieties of dolphins, brown pelicans, western gulls, sooty shearwaters, California sea lions, Northern elephant seals, harbor seals, leatherback turtles and the iconic and endangered Southern sea otters.


Furthermore, the Monterey Bay supports the economies of two counties and countless livelihoods. It draws visitors from around the world and supports recreational opportunities for thousands of residents. Through programs such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, O'Neill Sea Odyssey and countless others, the Monterey Bay has provided a foundation for educating millions about the principles of ocean conservation and preservation.


The Santa Cruz County community has responded to protect the Monterey Bay. For example, Central Coast beach cleanups organized by Save Our Shores have helped inhibit the flow of plastics and other debris into the marine environment, and last year 3,148 volunteers removed more than ten tons of pollution from local shores.


Local governments have also responded, led by Santa Cruz County, implementing changes that have led not only to positive changes at the local level but have raised statewide and even global awareness around issues relating to plastics and the environment. In the 1970s, Santa Cruz County was one of the first local governments to implement curbside recycling, and our longtime emphasis on local and sustainable agriculture has reduced the need for single-use plastics locally.


More recently, beginning in 2008 the County began enacting a series of laws to protect the environment and local tourism economy, including banning plastic and polystyrene to-go containers, banning the sale of expanded polystyrene ("Styrofoam") plastics altogether, prohibiting disposable single-use carryout plastic bags, assuring that all cups and to-go cutlery is certified compostable and prohibiting plastics stir-sticks and straws. These developments have fostered other local and even statewide changes, and led Santa Cruz County to serve as a test market allowing Starbucks to eventually announce it would phase out the use of disposable plastic straws globally by 2020.


But we know more can be done. As we move toward our goal of zero waste, we understand that continuing to limit single-use plastics from our marine environment is important.


One such way to do this is to look to single-use bathroom products in the local hospitality industry. For example, single-use shampoo and conditioner bottles continue to be a source of waste in Santa Cruz County, which is of particular concern due to the collapse of the global plastics recycling market. These products now may ultimately wind up in a landfill, where they can leach dangerous chemicals into soil and water. Increasingly, the tourism market recognizes that consumers are ready for alternatives.


Both major and boutique brands have begun to reduce or phase out the use of single-use plastic bottles for their guests, replacing them with larger bottles, dispensers or other alternatives. The market has also began to recognize consumer demand for reduced dependency on single-use plastics, with companies such as Ethique, Nohbo Drops and many others providing single-use personal care products without plastic containers.


The County believes that in order to further protect Monterey Bay, our natural resources and our local economy, additional action is needed to reduce to flow of single-use plastics into the environment. Under the proposed ordinance, small plastic bottles of personal care products may not be provided in hotel or motel rooms, vacation rentals, or other visitor accommodations in the unincorporated areas, except to persons specifically requesting accommodation of a disability or other special need. This provision does not apply to hosted rentals in which the owner lives on the premises.


In discussions and meeting with local hospitality industry representatives we incorporated provisions, such as ADA accommodations and a phase-in time period, into the ordinance to ensure a smooth transition into this new method of product distribution. As many of our partners in the hospitality industry have products ordered in advance, and agreements with parent chains or installations of dispensers take time, we are proposing that the ordinance take effect December 31, 2020.


We believe our county will become the first in the country to implement such a policy and we intend to work with other jurisdictions in our area to enact similar ordinances.



Strategic Plan Element(s)

This item is addressed by the focus area of Sustainable Environment, working toward the goals of protecting Natural Resources (b); Local Conservation (c); and Climate Change (d).


Meeting History

Nov 20, 2018 9:00 AM Video Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting

1) Considered proposed ordinance regulating single-use plastic bottles of personal care products in hotel or motel rooms, vacation rentals, or other visitor accommodations in the unincorporated areas;

2) APPROVED the ordinance in concept, including additional direction: Chair to send the ordinance, and to write letters encouraging all the other local jurisdictions within our county to participate; and

3) SCHEDULED the ordinance for second reading and final adoption on December 4, 2018

MOVER:Greg Caput, Fourth District Supervisor
SECONDER:Bruce McPherson, Fifth District Supervisor
AYES:Zach Friend, Ryan Coonerty, Greg Caput, Bruce McPherson
ABSENT:John Leopold