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June 16, 2021

Disposable cups fees won’t start until 2022

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on May 11 voted unanimously to delay a 25-cent fee for disposable cups at businesses in the unincorporated parts of the county until January 2022.

County officials crafted the ordinance to reduce the amount of disposable cups that end up on the ground and in landfills. It was adopted in December 2019, but the start date was delayed on Aug. 4, 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic to lessen the effects on businesses struggling under the restrictions.

“We really also need to work with businesses,” Supervisor Manu Koenig said. “We want to create a situation where businesses feel supported and willingly comply. I think this is a very difficult year to try to implement new regulations, and it would probably ultimately lead to less compliance and a bit of a rockier start for this ordinance.”

The 25-cent fee was originally intended to go into business owners’ pockets, but that could change as county officials look for ways to put the money into environmental programs via a ballot measure, possibly next year.

“People when they pay these fees they think that it’s going into something other than just back to the business,” Supervisor Zach Friend said. “I think there is an ability here to have a shared money between the business to recoup cost, maybe make a little bit on it, but also to fund much needed environmental programs especially with some of the waste we’ve seen with single-use products that have really exploded during this pandemic.”

Under the ordinance, customers will be required to pay a 25-cent fee for a single-use cup, which will be added to the total cost of the order.

Some people on low-income food programs will be exempt from the ordinance, as will those who receive unemployment benefits. In addition, businesses that can show the ordinance would create a hardship for them can be exempted for no more than one year.

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