Banned: 6-Ounce Consumer Product Bottles in California Hotels

Posted on Behalf of  Ruth Hwang, Alex Schulte

Posted on behalf of Ruth Hwang and Alex Schulte

With the recent passing of Assembly Bill No. 1162 (AB1162), California hotel goers can begin to say goodbye to souveniring the miniature shampoo bottles that have been a staple in hotels. Rather, guests can expect to start seeing larger personal care product dispensers, not unlike soap dispensers in public restrooms. Signed by California Governor Gavin Newson on October 9, 2019, AB1162 bans small, non-reusable plastic bottles in lodging establishments (AB1162, 2019). On January 1, 2023, hotels equipped with more than 50 rooms will no longer be able to provide their guests with plastic bottles that are less than 6-ounces in capacity without having to pay a fine (CNN, 2019). Specifically, the first infraction will result in a $500 fine for each day that the law is broken. A separate second offense will result in a $2000 fine (CNN, 2019). The law is focused on personal care products including shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion that are commonly provided in small bottles designed for a single use. Smaller hotels with less than 50 rooms will also be affected by the law, although they have until 2024 to make the necessary changes.

The ban of small plastic bottles is one step in a larger effort to combat the continuous rise of plastic waste throughout the world. According to the EPA, the U.S. generated 14.7 million tons of plastic containers in 2015, of which only 15% were recycled (EPA, 2019). Increasing our nation’s recycling rates is no longer a sustainable solution, as China, the previous world leader in recycling imported plastic waste, stopped accepting and recycling other countries’ plastic as of January 2018 (NPR, 2018; Guardian, 2018).

The increasing volume of plastic waste has resulted in the emergence of microplastics, a persistent contaminant that has been detected in drinking water sources and aquatic environments (He et al., 2018). Although the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that microplastics in drinking water present a low health concern to humans, scientists at CardnoChemrisk noted in a recent blog that there are major knowledge gaps surrounding microplastics, and that little is understood regarding their toxic potential to humans (WHO, 2019). Additionally, studies have shown that microplastics have a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems and may contribute to the bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals through aquatic food webs (Foley et al., 2017). Furthermore, plastics contain endocrine disruptors (Bisphenol A), phthalates, carcinogens (DEHP), plasticizers, colorants, heat stabilizers, barrier resins, and more that may leach into the environment (Rani et al, 2015; Erythropel et al, 2014). With humans at the top of the food web, there is potential for the plastic waste once used to package our food and consumer products to re-enter our food supply, and eventually our bodies, in the form of microplastics (Wang et al., 2019). Reducing the amount of plastic waste that enters the environment is one way to combat the emergence of potentially harmful microplastics that may lead to unforeseen health effects in our food and water sources.

Although hotels still have some time before the ban is enforced, a few notable chains have already taken matters into their own hands. According to an article by the Associated Press, Marriot International indicated that they will stop their use of small plastic bottles in all their hotels by December 2020. Similarly, IHG (the owner of Holiday Inn, Kimpton, and other hotel chains) noted their plans to eliminate 200 million small plastic bottles by 2021 (Associated Press, 2019). In a blog posted on behalf of the Walt Disney Company in 2018, Disney Parks and Resorts’ Animals, Science, and Environment Vice President Dr. Mark Penning claimed that Disney was transitioning to refillable in-room amenities in their hotels and cruise ships across the globe (Disney, 2018). Additionally, the county of Santa Cruz recently approved an ordinance, which goes into effect December 2020, to ban single-use plastic bottles in hotels in order to protect the Monterey Bay ecosystem (NBC Bay Area, 2018).

While it is impossible to know every effect that California’s tiny plastic bottle ban has on the global plastic waste concern, many lawmakers, experts, and activists believe it is a necessary step in the process of waste reduction (CNN, 2019). As the first U.S. state to enact a law restricting the use of plastic straws, and the first state to officially ban plastic bags, pioneering a tiny plastic bottle ban in hotels seemed nearly inevitable for California (Eater, 2018; Inhabitat, 2016). 

CardnoChemRisk scientists have extensive professional experience evaluating the possible hazards posed by chemicals, including microplastics, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and those present in consumer products and packaging materials. If you would like more information on CardnoChemRisk's capabilities or have any further questions regarding this topic, please contact Dr. Ernest Fung.