Berkeley's Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance Takes a Huge Step Toward Achieving Zero Waste



January 18, 2019 

(BERKELEY, CA) - The Berkeley City Council will consider a groundbreaking Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance next week that, if passed, would become the most ambitious, comprehensive legislation to reduce throw-away foodware in the United States.

To unveil the new policy, the Ecology Center and Councilmember Sophie Hahn will host a press conference on Tuesday, January 22 at 4pm on the front steps of City Hall, before the item is discussed at the City Council’s 6pm meeting at 1231 Addison Street.

Key components include:

  • Disposable compostable straws, lids, stirrers, cup spill plugs, napkins, and utensils for take-out will be provided only on request or at self-serve stations.

  • Starting January 2020, take-out foodware must be compostable and 25 cents will be charged for disposable cups to incentivize customers to bring their own.

  • Starting July 2020, all dine-in foodware will be reusable.

  • Hardship waivers will be available for special circumstances.


Other elements of the legislation include technical assistance and a mini-grant program to assist restaurants in making the transition to reusable dine-in ware, and a reusable take-out foodware program for launch in 2022.

The ordinance was initially introduced in April 2018, and went through a number of changes reflecting input from restaurants and members of the public collected through an extensive community process. 

“With the collapse of the overseas recycling market and an influx of food- and beverage-related litter on our streets and in our waterways, waiting is no longer an option,” said Berkeley Councilmember Sophie Hahn, the author of the legislation. “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. Recycling is no longer a solution – if we want to save the planet, it’s time to reduce, reuse and compost.”

Mayor Jesse Arreguín, co-sponsor of the ambitious new policy, seconded the need to act now to reduce litter in the city’s waste stream – and address the global plastics problem.

“We must find ways to address our pressing environmental challenges that are both feasible and impactful, and I feel confident this legislation meets both criteria” said Arreguín. “I am very appreciative of the exhaustive work of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, Zero Waste Commission, and Councilmember Hahn to reach out and really listen to environmental and zero waste advocates, as well as local restaurants and business associations.”

In addition to a significant reduction in waste and reduced litter on Berkeley streets and waterways, the measure is meant to inspire other cities to take similar action.

 The ordinance is supported by a coalition of over 1000 local, national, and international organizations participating in the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) global movement including UpStream, The Story of Stuff Project, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Plastic Pollution Coalition, and Surfrider Foundation.

 Please RSVP to one of the above contacts if planning to attend the press conference.



Jesse Arreguin