Berkeley Will Start Charging 25 Cents for Takeout Cups

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Public Domain. Unsplash – Takeout coffee cups will soon be 25 cents more expensive... and hopefully a thing of the past.

This is just one of several major changes in its crackdown on single-use plastics.

There is wonderful news from Berkeley, California, this week. On Tuesday the city council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that will drastic reduce food packaging waste. It is being called the most ambitious and comprehensive legislation of its kind in the United States. It strives to tackle the issue of single-use plastics in a number of ways.

First, all food accessories like cutlery, straws, cup lids and sleeves will be provided by request only. Food vendors must provide compost bins for customers. These changes are effective immediately.

Second, starting in January 2020, all disposable food containers will have to be BPI-certified compostable, and all dine-in food wares will have to be reusable. As SF Gate reports, "Even fast-food restaurants such as Burger King will need to provide reusable forks. It may be be the most progressive zero-waste initiative ever implemented in a city." Additionally, all customers will be charged 25 cents for takeout cups for cold and hot beverages; if they bring their own, the fee is waived.

This is huge news – groundbreaking, really. What I find most exciting is the fee for takeout cups, which is something I've been advocating for years. The experimental 5-cent charge that Starbucks tried in London last year was not enough to effect any real behavioral change, but I suspect that 25 cents could make a bigger difference, as it's a greater percentage of the total cost of a drink. It's about time we stopped discounting reusables and started charging for disposables, which is a more logical way of addressing the waste problem.

More than 1,400 organizations backed the ordinance, including the Break Free From Plastic Movement, UpStream, The Story of Stuff Project, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and Surfrider Foundation. Greenpeace's executive director and Berkeley resident Annie Leonard said in a press release,

"By passing this groundbreaking ordinance, Berkeley has sent a resounding message to the rest of the country about how to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. The ordinance is comprehensive and acts with the urgency needed to confront the throwaway culture that fuels overconsumption."

Hopefully other cities will follow Berkeley's lead. The first city always has the hardest job, but now, as Leonord said, a blueprint has now been created for a world without throwaway plastics. We'd be crazy not to do the same.