City Council moves toward expanding recycling practices

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In an effort to reduce its plastic waste output, Berkeley City Council is looking into increasing the scope of the city’s recycling practices.

At its meeting Tuesday evening, the council voted unanimously to refer the Zero Waste Commission to investigate the possibility of expanding the type of plastic that the city recycles.

According to the recommendation from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Susan Wengraf, the city currently only accepts “plastic narrow necked bottles,” — such as water, soda, milk, juice and detergent bottles marked with a “#1” or “#2” on the bottom — as recyclables.

All other nonbottle plastics that are collected go straight to landfills. The request calls for the commission to assess the operational cost and environmental factors of recycling these other types of plastic.

The council amended the recommendation from its original draft to add that the referral not take any staff time away from the legislation that is currently in progress to expedite the process on the single-use plastic bag ban, which the council wanted to remain a priority for the staff.

Currently, Berkeley does not recycle “mixed rigid plastics,” including such items as food “clam shell” containers and toys, as well as items like yogurt and ice cream tubs.

“City staff is actively working with the Zero Waste Commission and our contractors, the Ecology Center and Community Conservation Centers, to identify all options for expanding the acceptance of plastics in our collection programs in order to continue to improve our waste diversion rate and meet our Climate Action Plan goals,” said Andrew Schneider, the city’s recycling program manager, in an email.

Annie Sciacca covers city government.