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The City of Berkeley's 2019 passage of its Single-Use Foodware & Litter Reduction Ordinance dealt a marked blow to the proliferation of disposables and plastic generated by the City's food-service sector. This landmark piece of legislation - notably requiring a 25-cent charge on take-out beverage cups, chemical-free compostable single-use foodware, and reusable ware for dining-in - is now being duplicated by other visionary California cities. This event’s history features collaboration and vision, initiated by a coalition of environmental non-profits and local waste experts who put words into legislative action. With policymakers and waste collection professionals’ guidance, the ordinance's foundation was laid. Next step required securing support of elected officials who embraced a shared resource/waste reduction goal, amid collapsing recycling markets and plastic's growing environmental/human health toll. Once the sponsoring councilmember solidified an enactable piece of legislation, it came before Council for review.
As Berkeley values citizen advisory input, it has 30+ commissions, comprised of hundreds of volunteers appointed by councilmembers and Mayor; Council subsequently elected to charge its ZW Commission to conduct educational outreach on the proposed ordinance and collect public input. After an extensive four-month process, featuring a series of extended meetings and public listening sessions, coupled with staff input/coordination, Commission submitted key recommendations to Council to improve the legislation; an improved iteration passed Council unanimously and without organized opposition, following a three-year development period. Berkeley's experience and process provide an invaluable roadmap for other municipalities seeking to pass effective zero waste laws for the benefit of their communities.
Zero Waste Specialist/Educator. BayArea-based, specializing in stakeholder outreach, policy implementation, consultancy, and project management, with a focus on responsible/ethical production/consumption and reuse/recovery of materials and resources through zero waste principles and practices. City of Berkeley’s Zero Waste Commission Chair. Creative director professional for over 25 years. Past experience includes project manager of CARE/carpet recycling’s marketing, education, and outreach effort through Gigantic Idea Studio, executive director of EcoMom Alliance, director for Sustainable Business Practices Certificate program at Dominican University, and Marin County supervisor’s project lead, initiating county-wide bag ban effort, and local foodwaste-to-biogas feasibility studies. She speaks internationally on zero waste.
In 2018, the City of Berkeley began a process that resulted in a 2019 landmark piece of legislation, the Single-Use Foodware and Litter Reduction ordinance. For a municipality to successfully develop, adopt and implement zero waste ordinances, it is essential to solicit and build community buy-in and support. The City Council understood the power of its citizen advisory bodies and referred the proposed ordinance to its Zero Waste Commission for handle public outreach and input gathering, and then provide recommendations to Council before voting on the final language. Identifying key stakeholder groups and who will be most affected by proposed laws was a key strategy in designing a public information program. A three-pronged outreach/education approach - explanation of the ordinance, background on the necessity for it, and zero waste-approach conversion success stories - achieved the goal of gathering articulate and extensive public input, while aiding in an ever-evolving authoring process. Face-to-face interaction and surveys with the business community were effective in fine-tuning elements of the proposed ordinance. The role of an active citizen's advisory body can be instrumental in garnering valuable information from the community to create an implementable and effective law. It can also serve to assure elected officials that because a comprehensive outreach and education process was conducted, a more confident vote could be cast. Attendees will get a deeper understanding of how to design a community input program and present it to elected officials that have shared vision and goals.
Since 2000, Martin has led Berkeley's Ecology Center. Under Martin's leadership, the Ecology Center leverages local community services like running the nation's first curbside recycling program and pioneering the use of food stamps at farmers' markets to have state and national impact. Martin has spearheaded innovative policies such as piloting the disposable bag reduction strategy that became California state law, passing the nation's first soda tax, and driving the nation's first foodware reduction ordinance. By linking grassroots grit, highly competent program implementation, and effective policy advocacy, Martin has led the Ecology Center to become a high impact engine for change.
In today's context, where the executive branch is dismantling 50 years of regulatory infrastructure, denying climate change, and exacerbating environmental injustice, local jurisdictions must lead. When Washington goes low, we have to go local. Even where environmentally minded legislative bodies exist, passing innovative policy solutions us hard. It takes strong vision, leadership, and persistence to make change regardless of context.
Founded in 1969, the Berkeley Ecology Center is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving health and reducing the environmental impacts of urban residents. The Ecology Center's mission is to inspire and build a sustainable, healthy, and just future for the East Bay, California, and beyond. We address critical issues through a model of education, demonstration, replication, and advocacy. We deliver information you can act on, infrastructure you can count on, and leadership for lasting change.
This session will outline the approach and processes undertaken by Berkeley's Ecology Center to pass the nation's first disposable foodware reduction ordinance. The best of community-based policy processes involve an active role of the residents and impacted parties in defining the problem and proposing solutions. Still, even with consistent community involvement, dynamic leadership and support from experienced and trusted anchor organizations make a huge difference.
From conception to coalition building, to City Council engagement and support, this session will explore the strategies, tools, tactics, communications, community engagement, and consensus-building that helped the ordinance pass, and that made it a true model.
Vice-Mayor Sophie Hahn represents Berkeley’s 5th District. She authored the recently adopted Single-Use Disposables and Litter Reduction Ordinance, a model approach to reducing throw-away foodware and transitioning to reusables. A deeply committed environmentalist, Hahn authored legislation to legalize/facilitate urban agriculture, implement high green-building standards, and brought 100% renewable energy to Alameda County through establishing East Bay Community Energy. She co-sponsored Berkeley’s Climate Emergency Declaration and Electrification Ordinance (electric-only new buildings), chairs the Northern Alameda County Sierra Club, and operates an urban farm/CSA in her North Berkeley backyard. Hahn earned a BA in History (UCBerkeley) and a JD (Stanford Law School).
Berkeley has a long history of leadership in sustainability, environmental protections, and Zero Waste. The City pioneered curbside recycling in the 1970s and banned polystyrene in 1988. In 2009, Berkeley adopted an ambitious Climate Action Plan, and goal of achieving Zero Waste by 2020. Elected officials share a vision for Berkeley to be a global environmental leader.
In 2018, responding to the precipitous rise in throw-away foodware, the collapse of global recycling markets, and heightened awareness of plastic’s impact on oceans and wildlife, Councilmember Sophie Hahn introduced the nation’s first ordinance designed to facilitate a transition from throw-away to reusable foodware, addressing both dining-in and taking-out. Based on a concept led by Berkeley’s Ecology Center and aided by zero waste and anti-plastics advocates, the Single-Use Disposables and Litter Reduction Ordinance takes significant steps toward ending Berkeley’s reliance on SUD foodware and reducing street litter, ocean pollution, marine/wildlife harm, and greenhouse gas emissions.
How does a community make a breakthrough to fundamentally change its habits around the use of throwaway foodware? The answer: by coming together in a spirit of partnership with advocates, experts, legislators, citizen advisors and city staff, food vendors and the consuming public. Only through collaboration with a range of stakeholders is it possible for an elected official to create legislation and programs that really work, and to lay the groundwork for a dramatic shift from throw-away foodware and plastics toward both a reuse mindset, and creation of a system supporting reuse across the entire community.
Chris Slafter is a Resource Conservation Specialist on the Waste Reduction team of San Mateo County’s Office of Sustainability where he is primarily responsible for bringing the County’s department facilities into compliance with the County food ware ordinance. Formerly, Chris implemented California Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable program and has experience working with the local restaurant community. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from San Jose State University and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from University of San Francisco where he conducted an extensive and thorough survey of single-use food ware ordinances of the San Francisco Bay Area.
City of Berkeley’s food ware ordinance has served as a model for other Bay Area municipalities because it bans single-use plastic food ware items and accessories, requires alternate materials to be compostable and free of fluorinated chemicals, requires the use of reusable food ware items for on-site dining, and charges customers a fee for taking single-use disposable cups to go. Chris will be discussing the survey methodology that Berkeley used to incorporate business feedback into the ordinance writing process. Chris has managed survey projects to support single-use food ware ordinances in Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Mateo County.
Moreover, replacing single-use food ware items with compostable alternatives or reusable food ware items can be challenging and Chris will be discussing his experience providing technical assistance to restaurants through Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable program. ReThink Disposable provides micro-grants to cover the cost of reusable food ware items and expertise to help businesses integrate reusable items into their existing operations. Clean Water Action’s data collection demonstrates that, typically, businesses which replace single-use items with reusable items save money, reduce waste, and provide an alternative to the petrochemical industry driven market for a single-use consumer lifestyle.
Lastly, Chris will discuss the leadership role that County of San Mateo has taken by adopting a county-wide ordinance, providing incentives to the County’s many municipalities to encourage them to either adopt the County ordinance or to pass an ordinance that goes further, and to mandate their own department facilities to comply with the ordinance.