Berkeley Unanimously Passes Groundbreaking Disposable Free Dining Ordinance

Thursday, January 24, 2019

BERKELEY, Calif. – The Berkeley, CA City Council has taken an important step to drastically reduce the amount of disposable foodware coming out of the doors of the city’s restaurants. Berkeley’s new policy is a precedent-setting example of how cities can lead in the global movement  to reduce the plastic pollution damaging our waterways and communities.

The ordinance, which requires that food vendors provide reusable foodware to customers who eat onsite and makes certain single-use disposable items available only by request or at a self-serve station, also mandates a $0.25 charge for any beverage sold in a disposable container. The policy, which is modeled after successful plastic bag bans accompanied by a charge on paper, will drive lasting behavior change among consumers.

Clean Water Action’s Waste Prevention program manager, Samantha Sommer, noted, “Berkeley has seized the opportunity to show the country that disposable-free dining ordinances are a powerful way to prevent waste and litter while providing a long-term savings to food service businesses who invest in reusables. The success of the ReThink Disposable program is a testament to the fact that transitioning to reusables benefits cities, businesses, and the planet. We look forward to seeing other cities follow in Berkeley’s footsteps by passing disposable free ordinances.”

 This ordinance is the culmination of two years of work by Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable program and allies.  The ReThink Disposable program, has helped 109 businesses transition to reusables, resulting in a net savings of $394,033 and 121,162 pounds of waste eliminated every year.  On the business side, one of Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable program associates trained and oversaw 14 community volunteers who completed a survey of Berkeley food businesses to support the development of the Berkeley ordinance. Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable team also participated in four public listening sessions with the business and residential community to seek feedback on the policy.

The Disposable-Free Dining Ordinance, introduced by Sophie Hahn, came before city council for a first reading and passed unanimously. The policy has one more vote before council, but this first reading was an important hurdle to overcome before the ordinance becomes official policy.


Since its founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. 




Nina Foushee
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