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Berkeley Passes 25-Cent Tax on Disposable Cups

Berkeley took a major step toward eliminating restaurant waste and becoming a plastic-free city as city leaders voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a new litter-reduction ordinance.

The City Council approved an ordinance that requires all takeout foodware to be compostable and requires businesses to charge customers 25 cents for disposable cups.

The Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance is focused on reducing waste created at restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and other spots that serve food and drinks.

"Many Berkeley restaurants have already switched to compostable to-go ware and reusables for dining-in and we’re asking all food vendors to follow their visionary example," Berkeley Councilwoman Sophie Hahn said in a statement. "Recycling is no longer a solution – if we want to save the planet, it’s time to reduce, reuse and compost."

When it comes to the proposed tax, the idea is to encourage people to bring their own cups to cafes or coffee shops in much the same way people bring their own reusable bags to grocery stores.

The audience at Tuesday's meeting was filled with people in favor of the new ordinance.

Rialto Elmwood Cinemas General Manager Joey Brite says the company has been preparing for a change by transitioning to compostable cups and lids. But, the idea of bringing in personal cups is not going to work.

"That’s a health issue," Brite said. "I can’t have your cup and put the soda in it; that’s not going to happen."

Stuart Baker of the Telegraph Business Improvement District says the ordinance comes at a bad time.

The minimum wage increase just went up to $15, and a lot of restaurants are struggling to make the adjustment, so there’s a challenge with the timing," Baker said.

The new litter orindance takes effect in January 2020.

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