Berkeley City Council to discuss foodware, sugary beverage consumption

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Berkeley City Council will convene Tuesday for its first regular meeting this year to consider a number of items, including an ordinance aimed at reducing single-use disposable foodware, such as single-use plates and utensils, and an item regarding the allocation of more than $4 million to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Item 22, or the Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance, authored by Councilmember Sophie Hahn and Mayor Jesse Arreguín, will create a mini-grant program to help food vendors with one-time costs associated with converting to reusable foodware. Item 27a on the new business action calendar, which originates from a Sugar Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts, will allocate $4.75 million to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks.

According to Zero Waste Consultant and Zero Waste Commission Chair Christienne de Tournay, the foodware ordinance was first proposed in April 2018 and then referred to the Zero Waste Commission, which held a series of public informational meetings regarding the ordinance and then made recommendations.

This is a really good piece of legislation. … Berkeley has been a leader in recycling and in sustainable and environmental policy, but Berkeley is slipping behind and recycling rates are down,” de Tournay said. “This is designed to change behaviors — to not use something one time then throw it away.”

According to the agenda, the ordinance will impose a charge the same as or similar to the disposable cup charge on other disposable foodware containers.

The ordinance takes into consideration the economic factors of switching to reusables. According to de Tournay, switching to reusable items will ultimately lead to savings for businesses.

“We really, really took into consideration the business and the business point of view,” de Tournay said. “This effort is not one to punish anyone. This is not about taxation fees. This is really about trying to solve this problem of too much waste ending up in too many of the wrong places.”

The sugar consumption reduction allocation item will be distributed in two installments of $2.375 million a year, according to the agenda, with 40 percent allocated to the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, to help implement and enhance cooking and gardening programs.

Twenty percent of the money will be utilized by the city manager to monitor the process of sugar consumption reduction, and 10 percent will go toward a comprehensive media campaign that will coordinate with regional soda tax efforts.

According to UC Davis assistant professor of human development and family studies Jennifer Falbe, who also researches the addictive quality of sugary beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet and can lead to diabetes and obesity.

BUSD programs receiving money from this item have a curriculum with an additional focus on sugars and sugary beverages, according to Falbe.

The program is an excellent avenue for improving children’s beverage consumption and health,” Falbe said. “It has very broad reach … because it’s a public school program — it has the ability to reach almost all of Berkeley’s children regardless of their families’ resources.”

Sabrina Dong is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that that the Zero Waste Commission gave recommendations about the foodware ordinance before it held public informational meetings. In fact, the commission gave these recommendations after it held the public meetings.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article misspelled Christienne de Tournay’s last name.