On January 1, the city of Berkeley, CA rolled out the nation’s most comprehensive law to fight throw-away food packaging. The groundbreaking new rules require restaurants and cafes to charge 25 cents for each disposable cup, make all to-go containers compostable and, starting in July, use reusable foodware, such as porcelain dishes, for customers who are dining in.
The move is an ambitious attempt to break America’s throwaway habits, which local officials hope will take off nationally. Sophie Hahn, the Berkeley city council member who authored the legislation, notes that the city’s residents throw out an estimated 40m disposable cups each year. “Everybody understands, we have to make these changes for our planet and our community,” she said. “We fed ourselves and hydrated without throwaway containers for millennia, and we can do it again.”
While many people think that “paper” coffee cups are recyclable or compostable, they are, in fact, lined with plastic, which makes recycling or composting them nearly impossible.
With the increasing push by environmentalists to do away with single-use packaging, several cafes and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area have already ditched disposable cups altogether. At Perch Coffee House in Oakland, customers can pay a deposit to take their coffee in a glass jar. And at Michelin-starred San Francisco chef Dominique Crenn’s cafe, slated to open this year, customers who want coffee to go will have to bring their own cups.