BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – Coffee shops in the city of Berkeley are taking part in a pilot program offering customers reusable stainless steel cups, with the goal of keeping 40 million disposable cups out of landfills.

Here’s how it works. Customers use their phones to check the cup out like a library book and would return them at kiosks located at participating businesses.

Caffe Strada is one of a dozen coffee shops in Berkeley that launched the program Wednesday. On a counter, not far from the paper coffee cups, a stack of stainless steel reusable cups that you can scan on your phone, take with you, and keep for 5 days.

Customers would be charged for the cup if it’s not returned.

The cups are made by Vessel, a Boulder, Colorado company working to fight throwaway culture.

A customer scans a barcode on a reusable cup at a coffee shop in Berkeley. (CBS)

A customer scans a barcode on a reusable cup at a coffee shop in Berkeley. (CBS)

“If you go look at the trash cans on the street, the majority of what you’ll probably see are disposable cups,” said Vessel founder Dagny Tucker.

Many disposable cups can’t be recycled because of a layer of plastic inside of them. Tucker says these to go cups can solve that problem.

“People can tangibly take part in this movement to create a better, more sustainable, more beautiful future,” Tucker told KPIX 5.

Martin Borque, executive director of The Ecology Center said, “It’s not saying compostable or recyclable. It’s saying no, reusable.”

Borque said the reusable cup program is part of a larger shift in Berkeley. Come January, the city will require businesses to offer compostable foodware and customers will have to pay 25 cents for disposable cups.

Cal student Emily Hall checked out a vessel cup from another cafe Wednesday. “I thought it was really cool. I thought it was a nice way to save and not use as many cups,” Hall said.

But perhaps out of habit, Hall still opted for a plastic cup.

Word about the program could take time to spread. But Borque said once it does, “maybe we can spread it further out to the business districts and eventually looking toward a citywide program that would be in every restaurant and cafe throughout the city and maybe the region.”

By next summer, Berkeley restaurants will also have to stop offering disposable foodware to customers dining in.

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