SANTA CRUZ – With the recent passage of Measure C, Santa Cruz County officials are reminding residents and businesses in unincorporated areas that a 25-cent single-use cup fee will be implemented on Friday, July 1.
The ordinance aims to encourage the use of clean and reusable beverage containers, in an effort to protect the environmental from the adverse effects of single-use plastics, according to a release from county spokesperson Jason Hoppin.
“Santa Cruz County is a leader in the efforts to reduce the flow of plastics and other disposable products into the environment,” said Supervisor Zach Friend in the county release. “This is a common-sense measure that should help reduce the 5 million disposable cups that are thrown away each year in our county while raising funds for essential environmental clean-up programs in our area.”
The fee was originally approved by the County Board of Supervisors in late 2019, but implementation was delayed due to the safety concerns and general operational impacts posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will apply to unincorporated areas specifically, as cities within the county like Watsonville and Santa Cruz have previously implemented similar fees of 10 cents and 25 cents, respectively.
Both permanent and temporary businesses where beverages are served–including food trucks and events–must implement the ordinance and save the receipts. Customers may bring their own reusable cups to these businesses and retailers must accept them unless the container is cracked, chipped, corroded or appears inappropriate in size, material or condition. The tax will appear separately on customer receipts and cannot be waived by sellers, according to the county release.
Retailers will initially retain the fee in full, but voter’s approval of Measure C will soon change that calculus. Measure C allows the county to collect 12.5-cents (half) of the existing 25-cent ordinance as a general tax beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The county estimates that the measure will raise approximately $700,000 annually for general county projects including but not limited to reducing pollution, protecting water quality, preventing wildfires, addressing illegal dumping and protecting marine life.
Measure C was overwhelmingly approved by county voters in June. As of Monday afternoon, there were 51,266 votes in favor or 69.6% and 22,406 opposed or 30.4%.
County staff estimate that approximately 12 million single-use cups are used annually by the county, according to a Sentinel report last year.
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