Small Hotel Room Toiletries Will Be Illegal in One California City

Santa Cruz, California will be the first place in the country to ban miniature toiletry bottles.

The ordinance was unanimously approved by the county’s Board on November 20th. It returns to the board for final approval on December 4 and will go into effect December 31, 2020.

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.

First they came for the straws, but I don’t drink from plastic straws so I said nothing. But wall dispensers are awful and must be stopped.

  • They don’t get refilled properly and when they do get refilled hotels are more likely to use counterfeit products.
  • They’re germ magnets.
  • And guests have been known to put stuff in them you wouldn’t want there. Even where there have been safeguarding locks in place I’ve had rooms where those weren’t locked.

Marriott is enforcing wall mounted toiletry dispensers in the showers of their managed North American properties. It’s cheaper and they get to pretend their motivation is the environment. Wall mounted toiletries are the corporate approach, let’s not mandate away more authentic experiences.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Always funny when “progressive” municipalities play right into the hands of large corporations!

  2. I do partially agree to the idea as well as to Gary. A solution might be something in between, bigger bottles which last for a few days. Safe, sealed and clean, and less pollution.

    I did always dislike both, tiny bottles and big dispensers. Shall I ever start a hotel, I will have 350ml bottles branded with my logo on it.

  3. PS instead of bottles also tetra pack would do it. I just got that in the AA flagship lounge in Miami instead of water bottles. Perfect.

  4. Good for Santa Cruz; we need to cut down on plastic pollution, and this is a small step in that direction.

  5. My least favorite thing about these is that a couple times a housekeeper has accidentally put in conditioner in lieu of shampoo. Then you don’t get shampoo at all… just two conditioners. Then the only way to fix it is to towel off, make a phone call, and wait.

  6. One time years ago I stayed at a junky chain hotel in Hannibal Missouri. I went down to breakfast in the morning and found a big jug of milk, big jug of OJ a toaster, off brand loaf of white bread and a giant communial tub of country crock. It was awesome. I love sharing germs with others at hotels. Maybe Santa Cruz could spend some time working to improve homeless issues instead of trying to hurt their tourist business.

  7. Also, I think more good would come of some cities tackling resort fees first. All of these are about disrupting status quo so that first movers aren’t penalized. In that sense I am for it if the new equilibrium is better

  8. This may be the clinical definition of “virtue signalling.”

    Will they also insist on the soap being unwrapped? And are plastic water cups also banned? Self-serve coffee packets or Keurigs? Plastic silverware and plates? The possibilities are endless.

  9. Kalifornia is the USSR revisited. Wonder how many city cops will be devoted to enforce this nonsense?

  10. My God, I don’t understand how anyone can live out there. Must government control everything? Are individual Californians not entitled to, or capable of, making individual choices and decisions? Maybe the State just knows better…

    Can facilities not choose what to provide? Can consumers not make a personal choice? For those who are concerned about plastic waste or whatever other issue, just don’t use them. Use your own with which you travel.

    I’m looking forward to the state or municipalities out there prohibiting the agricultural growth, and subsequent commercial sale, of beans and other produce that might lead to flatulence, out of their concern about climate change.

  11. any fucktard who approved this law deserves to have their hotel shampoo and conditioners inseminated

  12. Great to see. If you don’t like it bring your own. It’s easy enough. I have reusable bottles that I refill with my own products and bring on every trip. No need to use anything at the hotel. Most women prefer their own products anyway. And eliminating plastic isn’t going to be fun. That doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. There is so much waste associated with tourism. Anything we can do to reduce it is a step forward.

  13. I don’t know about you, but some laws I don’t like.
    I ignore them.
    Things are as they should be.

  14. I always save the 1/2 empty mini bottles from other places in my carry on.

    Then when I travel through california, I empty my carry on full of them into the local garbage bins. Better for the environment in my state.

    Eff the left(tm) coast.

  15. lol gotta love all the people squawking about “freedom” in the comments. Weed is legal in CA and it ain’t in most of the square states. California’s got it where it counts 🙂

  16. We are literally destroying the earth unnecessarily and probably poisoning our own bodies by all this damn plastic waste contaminating every water supply on this planet and a bunch of rich guys who travel too much are upset about small bottles of shampoo. Ok. California might look ridiculous to you, but you entitled pricks are the ones that look ridiculous to the entire world. Like it or not (and to be clear I personally don’t like it), Santa Cruz is right on this one.

  17. 1) Santa Cruz County not City.
    2) Plastic pollution is horrible, tiny one time everything everywhere leads to our environment being degraded
    3) This is a small step in the right direction. Hopefully the State of California will move forward with something comprehensive to combat all plastic pollution.

  18. Good.

    I just completed a 4 night hotel stay at a location in Europe. Each day housekeeping kept leaving mini-bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, while the original bottle was about half-empty when I departed.

    So when I checked out there were 3.5 mini-bottles each of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion sitting in the room – probably all destined for the trash.

    What an inefficient waste. Philosophically – no, it shouldn’t take government action to fix this. But when market forces fail…

  19. I always sweep the counter and my local homeless and battered women’s shelters gets the single use bottles. They are much appreciated.

  20. One of the things I like about being in a nice freshly prepared hotel room is the feeling that it’s there ‘just for me”. Having these containers in a place as intimate as the shower 100% clarifies that someone else has touched parts of their body and then directly touched these containers. To say it’s disgusting is an understatement. I quit staying at Marriott hotels for a couple of reasons and this is one of the big ones. I do tend to bring my own shampoo/conditioner but do use soap at a minimum.

    I’m an environmentalist at heart so this is not an easy one for me personally, so I have to just stay clear of places that condone these germ-filled containers with likely cheaper counterfeit alternatives other than the actual label.

  21. I’m personally in favor of this and I think that eliminating plastic is far more important than whatever issues people have with those containers.
    That being said, Gary, I don’t understand the point you’re making about those containers and germs. How is that any worse than basically anything you’re touching in a hotel room? Door handles, remotes, toilet flush button, light switches, or carpet (the worst of all) etc… At least those containers have soap in them so they can’t possibly be that dirty.

  22. Random comments:

    @Gary –> Incorrect headline. There is a City of Santa Cruz, and there is Santa Cruz County. In California, Boards of Supervisors govern counties, while most cities have a Mayor and City Council. Your headline refers to “One California CITY” (emphasis added), while the article itself refers to a vote by the COUNTY Board of Supervisors….

    @Kevin –> Tossing half-filled plastic bottles into the trash does nothing to help the environment, as trash goes into landfill. They should be emptied and recycled properly, OR — as I do — take the bottles and give them to the homeless…

    @Emily –> Agreed 100%, on all fronts. My wife and daughters always bring their own product. I use the stuff in the hotel(s), so I don’t have to carry extra weight, but then take the partially emptied bottles with me to donate to homeless shelters.


    For all the rest of you with your anti-California sentiment…PLEASE stay out of our state. You’d hate it here, with all the beautiful weather, ocean views, mountains, amazing foods, wines — the list of things you’d hate goes on and on and on. Clearly you couldn’t possibly get a good night’s sleep knowing that your shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are in larger, refillable containers — I know, it’s the stuff of nightmares…

  23. @Jason- I live in California. With the left fully in charge now, the rate of new regulations and new ways for everyone to become criminals will only increase. Due to my career, I see a few of the crazy bills that are being introduced that transfer more and more power to the state at the expense of individual freedom.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if they simply made more choices available to residents and visitors. In the present example, to mandate hotels to provide bulk dispensers and, if the properties choose, to let guests choose to use one or the other.

    If they thought they avoid ridicule, they would make it a crime to bring your own toiletry bottles.

  24. @Bob,

    So that is surprising since we are all usually told to emulate Europeans for their progressive views.

  25. There are 5,000,000 hotel rooms in the US. Average say 70% occupancy over the course of a year. Let’s say 2 bottles per night (shampoo, body wash). That’s around 2.5 Billion containers. OK so some places use soap in a paper wrapper, so lets call it 2 Billion.

    If we can get rid of 2 Billion of anything, why not?

  26. @Jim-

    1. You assume the containers cannot be recycled. They can be and should.

    2. You used the term “we”. That means guests, who should be given the choice. The sensible solution is to provide wall dispensers as well as recyclable bottles. Then everyone will be happy except those whose main purpose in life is to control everyone else.

  27. First . Some people here are just Rude in their comments. Foul language is not needed.

    Second 10% of the plastics in the USA is recycled by sending it to China! Yes that is only 10% of the total plastic that goes back into our landfills, seas, rivers and oceans. Blister packaging is the worse offender.

    If you do not like this new law of banning 1 oz bottles. BRING YOUR OWN refillable bottles from home and fill them yourself. If you forget them then go to CVS, Walgreens or Target and get another bottle.

    It is obvious the LAZY ONES who want to fill the landfills and pollute the earth with excess plastics.

  28. >Second 10% of the plastics in the USA is recycled by sending it to China! Yes that is only 10% of the total plastic that goes back into our landfills, seas, rivers and oceans. Blister packaging is the worse offender.

    So many things misleading there! First, the percentage is 11.11% (1/9, not 1/10), assuming the percentage is even correct. Second, you’re referring to all plastics, not toiletry bottles from hotels, which would be a very tiny percentage. Third, this assumes we can’t recycle our own material. Fourth, that there is some sort of problem with putting things into landfills — that’s what they are for!

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