Berkeley City Council votes to reduce use of disposables at Tuesday meeting

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Vivian Roan/Staff

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Berkeley residents expressed their excitement after the passing of the Referral to Zero Waste Commission, which aims to reduce the amount of Single-Use Disposables, or SUDs, in the city of Berkeley, at Berkeley City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday.

Earlier that day, Mayor Jesse Arreguín introduced Disposable-Free Dining legislation, which aims to decrease the use of disposables in restaurants.

SUDs are a major source of pollution in drinking water and have been linked to serious health effects including cancer, thyroid disruption, delayed puberty and obesity, according to the referral. Arreguín said the city has always been a leading force in the country against the use of these plastics.

The new legislation comes just after Earth Day, and Arreguín said the referral will be one of the first of its kind in the nation.

“The pollution is unnecessary and wreaks havoc on our oceans and wildlife, so thank you to all of you for all of your work,” Arreguín said. “I am glad we’re taking this historic action after Earth Day.”

The Zero Waste Commission will report the results of the Commission’s outreach and analysis to the City Council. The Commission will also provide recommendations for improvements to the Berkeley Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance. Restaurants and food retailers will also be asked to provide input on the proposed ordinance.

Berkeley residents  demonstrated support for the council’s consent of this item. One resident brought a bag full of garbage that she had collected from Strawberry Creek that morning to demonstrate the local effects of the pollution.

Members of a variety of environmental organizations, including Clean Water Action and the Plastic Pollution Coalition, brought a letter signed by 11 local businesses in support of the referral.

At the meeting, Berkeley residents also thanked the council for moving Part B of an item to the consent calendar that aims to achieve “fairness and impartiality” regarding Berkeley Police Department’s treatment of residents.

In order to do so, the city manager will be required to report the yield, stop, citation, search and arrest rates by race to the council. Special training programs for officers will also be implemented to “address any disparities found.”

One activist said during public comment, however, that there is still much work to be done in regard to police conduct around the city. Part A of the item, which still has not moved to consent, calls for a report and recommendations from the Berkeley Police Review Commission.

Another item, which had been met with some contention but passed to consent, was a resolution opposing the Transit-Rich Housing Bonus, or SB 827. This bill would uproot low-income residents near transit centers in the city in order to build more affordable housing, the idea being to flood the markets with housing so that housing prices will drop, according to the agenda item.

According to the agenda item, the housing is needed for Berkeley residents such as teachers or retail clerks, who have lower incomes than workers for the growing tech industry in the Bay Area. On the other hand, the agenda item also states that this initiative will reallocate resources away from low-income communities and will not provide a permanent solution to the housing crisis.

Berkeley resident Laura Magnani expressed opposition to the Transit-Rich Housing Bonus.

“I think we can agree that affordable housing isn’t affordable to most of us living in this city,” Magnani said.

Contact Isabella Sabri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @isabella_sabri.