Effective Wednesday, Berkeley has imposed a 25-cent fee on single-use cups at restaurants and coffee shops, with the hope more consumers will use their own refillable cups and help the environment.
The new fee largely has been welcomed in Berkeley, but some are concerned it could hurt small businesses.
The goal is simple: to incentivize people to use fewer disposable cups. Berkeley City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, author of the ordinance, said an estimated 40 million cups are thrown away in the city each year.
"So, you can imagine if we were to cut that even in half, it would make a huge impact," Hahn said.
The ordinance requires businesses to use compostable cups and food containers and charge customers 25 cents for a disposable cup.
Many in Berkeley support the new fee and are hopeful it will help the environment.
"I think it’s a wonderful idea," resident Doug Buckwald said. "Why do we need to make so many cups that are gonna be thrown away after one use? It’s ridiculous."
Some, however, are concerned it could do harm to small businesses in the long term.
"Unfortunately, those types of things mean the small businesses have to take the brunt of it," resident Aaden Hill said.
Hahn said that’s a misunderstanding about how the fee works. She said the fee is not a tax, where money goes back to the city. The restaurants and cafes get to keep the money.
Dagny Tucker, founder of Vessel, a free cup rental service that offers reusable aluminum cups at Cafe Strada in Berkeley, said the new fee is a win for the environment, customers and businesses.
"I think Berkeley is really leading the way for the nation, honestly," Tucker said.
Cafe Strada was part of a pilot program that began charging the 25-cent fee a few months ago. Some other businesses did not actually start charging the fee Wednesday.