Plastic pollution is now a global crisis and single-use disposable food ware is a big part of the problem. Roughly half the plastic the world produces is used only once and then discarded. The average American throws away more than ten plastic bags per week, or over 500 per year.
“Single-use disposable food ware is a local and global problem, one with enormous financial and environmental costs,” says Berkeley City Council Member Sophie Hahn. Hahn is the co-author of a new law aimed at reducing single-use disposable food ware. “As a city striving toward Zero Waste, we do a good job with composting and recycling, but it is not enough. We need to start reducing our waste as well.”
Entitled the Disposable-Free Dining Ordinance the new law will follow a succession of similar California municipal ordinances enacted recently including: Santa Cruz, Alameda, Davis, and Malibu. Where former initiatives only required no reusable food ware be used for dine-in service, and that all takeout food ware be approved as recyclable or compostable, this new proposal will also require that food vendors charge their customers $0.25 for every disposable cup and $0.25 for every disposable food container they provide.
Fees charged to consumers have had a long track record of success, and not just in the U.S. They have also been effective in cities around the globe. The average Dane, for example, now uses just four single-use plastic bags a year, after the introduction of a similar bag-fee over twenty years ago.
The Berkeley law is supported by a coalition of over a thousand local, national, and international organizations, including the Ecology Center, all of whom are participating in the Break Free from Plastic movement.