A new Berkeley law requiring restaurants and coffee shops to charge 25 cents per disposable cup is now in effect as of Jan. 1. City officials have reported that the city’s residents throw out about 40 million disposable cups in a year.
The comprehensive new law that won unanimous city council approval in January of last year is an effort to encourage national change, but it doesn’t stop at cups. The rules also force businesses to use compostable to-go containers and reusable foodware for customers dining in. Straws, stirrers, utensils and napkins for to-go orders are only to be given out by request or self-service stations. The ordinance led to the creation of a reusable cup pilot program that launched in September.
According to Berkeleyside, support is widespread with many restaurants and food businesses already using reusables for customers. Advocates for the disabled have said the rule could affect those with limited mobility or sensation issues. In addition, some business owners have voiced concerns about how the rule could affect their profit margins. City officials say even McDonalds, which reportedly asked for an exemption, will have to abide by the new rules. But the city has said waivers will be available to help businesses that can’t afford the change. Some argue the aggressive changes are desperately needed beyond Berkeley’s borders in order to make a significant impact in reducing waste.
Could a similar law soon come to Los Angeles? What will it mean for businesses and customers? What do you think? Join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722.
Erin McCormick, Berkeley-based reporter for The Guardian who’s been writing about the new law