Support Berkeley's groundbreaking waste reduction ordinance

Overflowing Garbage Can

Right now, streets, waterways, and coastlines across the San Francisco Bay Area are littered with plastic. Food containers, cups, cutlery, straws, bottle caps, wrappers, and other take-out food packaging have become all too common sights. Packaging waste and plastics designed for single use application and discarded after mere minutes are growing as a significant portion of the waste stream and recycling can’t keep up. According to the EPA, in 2014 over 33 million tons of plastic waste was generated, and only 9.5% was recycled. This plastic waste epidemic is a problem for not only creating blight in our communities from all the litter, but for our streams and oceans too -- 80% of plastics and trash that are in the ocean right now started as trash on the street or in a landfill. If we don’t stop this unnecessary consumption and disposal of single use plastics, there will be more plastic (by weight) in the ocean than fish by 2050.

The city of Berkeley is ready to stop this problem at the source. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, along with several city councilmembers, has proposed the “Disposable Free Dining Ordinance” that will reduce single-use disposable foodware to help fight the rising tide of plastic pollution in Berkeley. Berkeley's bold ordinance gets to the core of the problem and offers real solutions. It requires restaurants to provide only reusable foodware for dine-in service; all takeout foodware must be approved as recyclable or compostable in the City's collection programs. If you need a disposable to-go cup or container, business must charge a quarter for every disposable cup or food container provided to encourage customers to bring a refillable cup or container for take-out to avoid the charges. Finally, under the ordinance single use compostable straws, stirrers, cup spill plugs, napkins, and utensils for take-out can only be provided upon request by the customer or at a self-serve station. 

We are confident that this ground-breaking policy will tackle waste, plastic pollution, and ocean litter problems at the source because our own study found that food and beverage packaging comprises the majority of all Bay Area street litter. After analyzing the 12,000 pieces of litter that our volunteers captured across commercial districts, the solution was clear: food service businesses can implement cost saving practices to reduce their consumption of single use disposable food packaging that generates too much waste and litter. Motivated by our results, Berkeley aims to eliminate litter and waste production, save money, and make their city a cleaner and safer place to live through this new ordinance.

Clean Water Action will support Berkeley through this transition. Experts from our Rethink Disposable campaign will help businesses make the transition to reusables in Berkeley using their years of experience from certifying restaurants that implement waste reduction strategies across the Bay Area. Rethink Disposable has documented the successes of businesses from making this transition to reusable food ware, from cost savings over 20,000 dollars in some businesses to invaluable, improved customer satisfaction across the board. The program has eliminated over 10 million single use foodware items from business operations and is growing.

You can help support the “Disposable Free Dining” ordinance and see Berkeley become a model city for other municipalities to follow by tackling all take-out packaging holistically, rather than waiting the time that the planet doesn’t have to ban items piece by piece like we have seen with plastic bags and foam food ware containers in California. This waste ordinance will help Berkeley achieve its ambitious goal of reaching zero waste by 2020; Berkeley already diverts 75% of its waste, and this monumental step will help the city reach its final goal. You can show up on Tuesday, April 24th at 6pm to make your voice heard and let the City Council know that Berkeley is ready go disposable-free.