BERKELEY (CBS SF) — The Berkeley City Council Tuesday night passed a disposable foodware and litter-reduction ordinance that backers say is the most ambitious municipal legislation in the U.S. aimed at reducing the use of single-use disposable foodware.
“History,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin tweeted Tuesday night after the vote. “.Berkeley passes the most ambitious groundbreaking policy to reduce throw-away foodware in the nation.”
“Without dramatic change in the products and packaging that we consume, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by the year 2050, the ordinance’s lead author City Councilmember Sophie Hahn said at the meeting.
Supporters say the ordinance is backed by a coalition of more than 1,400 local, national, and international organizations participating in the global Break Free From Plastic Movement, including UpStream, The Story of Stuff Project, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the Plastic Pollution Coalition and the Surfrider Foundation.
Martin Bourque, the executive director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, a nonprofit that has collected Berkeley’s recycling since 1973, said in a statement, “Most of the single-use plastic foodware has no value in today’s recycling markets. With China’s ban on importing plastic scrap, cities are actually paying to get rid of it.”
Bourque said, “We cannot recycle our way out of the disposable foodware problem. We have to focus on reduction.”
Under the bill, Berkeley consumers will have to either bring their own cup when getting a drink to go or pay 25 cents for a disposable one.
Some people KPIX 5 talked to said the ordinance goes too far, even for Berkeley.
“25 cents would be too steep,” said UC Berkeley student Joseph Friedman. “As a student, I mean, I don’t have a lot of money. So having to spend 25 cents for a to go cup, it’s not right in my opinion.”
But others said they would simply avoid the fee by carrying their own dishes. Another UC Berkeley student, Gina Wright, said is already carrying reusable utensils everywhere she goes.
“I don’t use plastic spoons or forks anymore, or even compostable ones, because these are reusable,” explained Wright.
Hahn said a majority of Berkeley restaurants are already on-board with her proposal, which requires them to switch to compostable takeout packaging. She went on to say this is just the beginning. In three years, the plan is to launch a program that would allow Berkeley residents to borrow reusable takeout containers and later return them.
“It’s all about changing your habits to good ones, especially when the world is literally falling apart at the hands of human beings,” said Wright.
The 25 cent fee would go into effect next year.