California City Imposes 25-Cent Tax on Disposable Cups at Restaurants

Innula Zenovka

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For awhile my fave salad place was selling reusable bowls. Eventually the food inspectors noticed and they had to stop, it was a nightmare waiting to happen.
I think there's some confusion here over nomenclature. Surely most people eat off reusable plates and bowls, and drink out of reusable cups and glasses, both in restaurants and at home.

I'm assuming when people are using the term "reusable" here they're referring to something other than the kind of normal tableware we most of us have home, or that we expect to see in restaurants rather than fast-food shops, that you'd expect to wash after use and keep on using until it gets broken or you get tired of the pattern, but I don't understand what it is that you're referring to.
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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How the hell did society function before single use items? I really am wondering what's happened.
You mean, before the invention of fast food? Pretty well, I'd imagine.
 
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We didn't use to eat out that much, and certainly not in our vehicles. And when people went to diners and coffee shops, they got china plates and cups and metal utensils, and dishwasher was a job description. Fast food restaurants and cup-holders have changed people's dining habits.
It's a lot more than that though. The majority of items in a supermarket come in one time use containers. Most people even put their produce in plastic bags.
 

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Eating in our cars with plastic junk surrounding our food is so fundamental, how dear 'they' try to change something about that.
We fish the seafood out of the ocean, the next generations can fish the 'free' plastic resources out.
Everybody happy, ain't it? *


* This message contains some sarcasm.
 
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Kara Spengler

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I think there's some confusion here over nomenclature. Surely most people eat off reusable plates and bowls, and drink out of reusable cups and glasses, both in restaurants and at home.

I'm assuming when people are using the term "reusable" here they're referring to something other than the kind of normal tableware we most of us have home, or that we expect to see in restaurants rather than fast-food shops, that you'd expect to wash after use and keep on using until it gets broken or you get tired of the pattern, but I don't understand what it is that you're referring to.
The times I have encountered it you could buy a bowl/cup and get a discount for using it in the future. It did not make sense if you planned to only be there one time but if you went fairly often that discount made it cheeper over time.

Usually it does not mean 'bring your own container' but I know people who do that.
 
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Rose Karuna

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I didn't quote your post, because it wasn't really an answer on what you wrote. More a general remark.
We have to start somewhere. Pointing to others is not really efficient. There are simple solutions for replacing plastic straws and cups, plastic bags, and a lot of plastic packaging and whatnot of one use plastic.
I recently read about this company Loop 'Zero-waste' Loop delivers Coke and Häagen-Dazs in reusable packaging

I would love to be able to do this with all of my cleaning products. Actually, with pretty much everything if I could. Sometimes it takes action to wake us up out of our routines and make us start thinking about what we're doing to the earth. Like you say, we have to start somewhere.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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I'm still a bit confused.
The times I have encountered it you could buy a bowl/cup and get a discount for using it in the future. It did not make sense if you planned to only be there one time but if you went fairly often that discount made it cheeper over time.

Usually it does not mean 'bring your own container' but I know people who do that.
Thanks. I'm still a bit confused, though about how things worked in your salad bar.

Under what circumstances would I consider buying a bowl/cup from the salad bar -- when I wanted to eat in or eat out?

What's puzzling me is that, as I understand the system, buying a bowl/cup is an issue only if I want to buy my salad and take it somewhere else to eat it. If to want to eat the salad at the salad bar, then either it might be served it in a disposable bowl or in a regular ceramic one, depending on the salad bar's policy.

But buying a bowl from the salad bar seems to make sense only if I intend to take the meal off to eat it elsewhere, then wash the bowl and take it with me on my next visit to the salad bar, for them to use to give me my next salad.

I don't understand the hygiene concerns. Don't the health department trust customers to wash their own bowls before re-using them?
 
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I think the idea is that some people can't even be trusted to wash their hands after using the restroom let alone their own dishes. I have seen some pretty disgusting personal cups at the coffee house that made me feel sorry for the employee who had to touch it. I don't even want to know what that was that was growing in the bottom. It really is a mixed bag of responsible people, and people who just don't give a fuck. I guess time will tell whether this new law works out.
 

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I'm still a bit confused.

Thanks. I'm still a bit confused, though about how things worked in your salad bar.

Under what circumstances would I consider buying a bowl/cup from the salad bar -- when I wanted to eat in or eat out?

What's puzzling me is that, as I understand the system, buying a bowl/cup is an issue only if I want to buy my salad and take it somewhere else to eat it. If to want to eat the salad at the salad bar, then either it might be served it in a disposable bowl or in a regular ceramic one, depending on the salad bar's policy.

But buying a bowl from the salad bar seems to make sense only if I intend to take the meal off to eat it elsewhere, then wash the bowl and take it with me on my next visit to the salad bar, for them to use to give me my next salad.
I think the deal is, you could buy a reusable container/bowl, that you could take with you, and presumably wash before taking it back to the salad bar restaurant and using it again. Presumably, you get a small discount if you do that, vs. getting a single-use plastic bowl each trip. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but...

I don't understand the hygiene concerns. Don't the health department trust customers to wash their own bowls before re-using them?
I don't even trust people around here to wash their hands after going to the bathroom! How can I trust random strangers to properly sanitize their dishes before bringing them back and reusing them? The same goes for reusable cups at the soda fountains. I've been in the Navy for 20 years; I've seen how gross people can be!
 

Innula Zenovka

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I think the deal is, you could buy a reusable container/bowl, that you could take with you, and presumably wash before taking it back to the salad bar restaurant and using it again. Presumably, you get a small discount if you do that, vs. getting a single-use plastic bowl each trip. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but...


I don't even trust people around here to wash their hands after going to the bathroom! How can I trust random strangers to properly sanitize their dishes before bringing them back and reusing them? The same goes for reusable cups at the soda fountains. I've been in the Navy for 20 years; I've seen how gross people can be!
Starbucks (and several other UK chains of coffee shops) run similar schemes here in the UK:
Reusable cups are also an important component of our overall waste reduction strategy. In 2013 we launched a £1 cup in the U.K. and customers save 25p each time you use a reusable tumbler.

To help reduce paper cup waste further, from Thursday 26th July 2018, across our stores in Britain we will be rolling out a 5p paper cup charge to encourage customers to bring in a reusable cup.

The move to include a 5p charge in all of our stores follows an encouraging trial we ran with environmental charity, Hubbub, in 35 stores across London earlier this year. The aim was to see what impact a charge might have on customers choosing to use a reusable and reduce single-use paper cups.

Hubbub released a report with their findings, which show that the percentage of customers bringing in their own cup or tumbler increased in the trial stores from 2.2% before the trial to 5.8% during the trial.
Reducing Waste: Reusable Cup and 5P Paper Cup Charge | Starbucks Coffee Company

Caffe Nero do something similar, and Costa Coffee have switched to completely recyclable cups and also offer a discount to customers bringing their own containers.

I just don't understand why it's such a problem in the USA.

I accept it when people tell me it will be, but it certainly surprises me.

I find it difficult to believe that Brits (at least Brits who are buying takeaway drinks in mugs as opposed to cut-price cans of extra-strong lager, maybe) are that much more hygiene-conscious than are our American counterparts.
 
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Katheryne Helendale

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Starbucks (and several other UK chains of coffee shops) run similar schemes here in the UK:


Reducing Waste: Reusable Cup and 5P Paper Cup Charge | Starbucks Coffee Company

I just don't understand why it's such a problem in the USA.

I accept it when people tell me it will be, but it certainly surprises me.

I find it difficult to believe that Brits (at least Brits who are buying takeaway drinks in mugs as opposed to cut-price cans of extra-strong lager, maybe) are that much more hygiene-conscious than are our American counterparts.
I haven't been to the UK, but I know people here in the US can be pretty gross.

That said, I've been thinking more about this, and figured out that, as far as reusable cups go, we're already more than halfway there. At all the fast food restaurants here that allow free drink refills, people refill their disposable cups all the time, and we haven't gotten sick from some exotic disease yet. So I can see us going the rest of the way toward reusable cups. Maybe that won't be so bad.

Replacing single-use fast food wrappers and take-out containers with reusable containers is a whole other animal. We're not there yet, though as Kara mentioned, some places are trying it out. But if/when that time comes, I hope there's some means of ensuring no potential for contamination of food by bringing outside containers into the food prep area.
 

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I'm still a bit confused.

Thanks. I'm still a bit confused, though about how things worked in your salad bar.

Under what circumstances would I consider buying a bowl/cup from the salad bar -- when I wanted to eat in or eat out?

What's puzzling me is that, as I understand the system, buying a bowl/cup is an issue only if I want to buy my salad and take it somewhere else to eat it. If to want to eat the salad at the salad bar, then either it might be served it in a disposable bowl or in a regular ceramic one, depending on the salad bar's policy.

But buying a bowl from the salad bar seems to make sense only if I intend to take the meal off to eat it elsewhere, then wash the bowl and take it with me on my next visit to the salad bar, for them to use to give me my next salad.

I don't understand the hygiene concerns. Don't the health department trust customers to wash their own bowls before re-using them?
You could eat-in or take-out (they make the salad in front of you so only need any serving bowl right at the end, at the time their process was to use another washable mixing bowl while making the salad). You spent 5$ for the bowl and it saved you 50 cents each time you used it. So after using it 10 times it had paid for itself (not counting things like taxes and interest).

As to the health department trusting people? No. The ones here pretty much assume people will do something bad unless proven otherwise.

One of my colleges did something similar in their dining hall with the soda. You could buy a mug and save on filling it up. It was pretty common to see a lot of students carrying the mugs around because students look to save money where they can and go through a lot of soda.
 

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If single use containers could all be compostable? Or better yet edible!
Actually, the current Sweet Greens salad bowls are! Pretty much everything you buy there is (the salad, the bowls, the utensils, the napkins). About the only exceptions are if you buy bottled water, which has someone else's container (however it is recyclable, usually glass or metal).
 

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Replacing single-use fast food wrappers and take-out containers with reusable containers is a whole other animal. We're not there yet, though as Kara mentioned, some places are trying it out. But if/when that time comes, I hope there's some means of ensuring no potential for contamination of food by bringing outside containers into the food prep area.
Most people take the grips of the shopping carts at supermarkets in their hands, without second thoughts.
They are one of the most contaminated things you can hold in your hands. And still, people don't die from it or get sick.

The fear for contamination has become a thing during the last generations. I think that the commercials from cleaning tissues and soaps did their job over the years.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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I haven't been to the UK, but I know people here in the US can be pretty gross.

That said, I've been thinking more about this, and figured out that, as far as reusable cups go, we're already more than halfway there. At all the fast food restaurants here that allow free drink refills, people refill their disposable cups all the time, and we haven't gotten sick from some exotic disease yet. So I can see us going the rest of the way toward reusable cups. Maybe that won't be so bad.

Replacing single-use fast food wrappers and take-out containers with reusable containers is a whole other animal. We're not there yet, though as Kara mentioned, some places are trying it out. But if/when that time comes, I hope there's some means of ensuring no potential for contamination of food by bringing outside containers into the food prep area.
I see in the Starbucks press release to which I linked that when they did the trial scheme in London of charging for single-use cups (5p, which is nothing when you're paying £3.50 or so for the coffee) the use of reusable cups went up from about 3% to about 5%.

That doesn't sound much -- the behaviour of 95% of their customers remained unchanged -- but when you think of the number of cups of coffee Starbucks must sell in London during the course of a year, that 2% difference must represent a hell of a lot of single-use cups of which local councils don't have to dispose.

I think that must be the way Berkeley must be thinking -- probably they don't expect the surcharge to cause lots of people to switch to reusable cups (though I prefer my stainless steel vacuum cup to the disposable ones, since it doesn't leak, doesn't spill, I can carry the full cup in my bag, and it keeps the drink hot for hours if necessary). But if even only a few percent of customers do switch, that's still a big saving for Berkeley's refuse and recycling services.
 

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I see in the Starbucks press release to which I linked that when they did the trial scheme in London of charging for single-use cups (5p, which is nothing when you're paying £3.50 or so for the coffee) the use of reusable cups went up from about 3% to about 5%.

That doesn't sound much -- the behaviour of 95% of their customers remained unchanged -- but when you think of the number of cups of coffee Starbucks must sell in London during the course of a year, that 2% difference must represent a hell of a lot of single-use cups of which local councils don't have to dispose.

I think that must be the way Berkeley must be thinking -- probably they don't expect the surcharge to cause lots of people to switch to reusable cups (though I prefer my stainless steel vacuum cup to the disposable ones, since it doesn't leak, doesn't spill, I can carry the full cup in my bag, and it keeps the drink hot for hours if necessary). But if even only a few percent of customers do switch, that's still a big saving for Berkeley's refuse and recycling services.
Here in DC we have a 10 cent charge if you use a plastic/recyclable bag. Most do not even notice it and those that do just remember to carry cloth bags with them when they go shopping. Not that I remember it all the time however when I forget it is just another bag I can reuse another time. The profits from it go towards the cleanup of a local river (the Anacostia).

What is frustrating though is enforcement is so random. I do pay attention to that tax and sometimes it gets charged and sometimes not. Sometimes it includes paper bags (which is bizarre since they are compostable) and sometimes not. I have even gotten the bag tax when bringing in my own bag (cloth or from a previous trip) to be used! I used to go to Subway a lot where the pointless bags for their sandwiches are not optional and you can not use them for anything else .... then they would put the bagged sandwich in my cloth bag and proceed to charge me the bag tax for the smaller bag the sandwich was in!
 

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Most people take the grips of the shopping carts at supermarkets in their hands, without second thoughts.
They are one of the most contaminated things you can hold in your hands. And still, people don't die from it or get sick.

The fear for contamination has become a thing during the last generations. I think that the commercials from cleaning tissues and soaps did their job over the years.
We get waves of nasty illnesses, usually of the gastrointestinal kind, from time to time. Those germs transmit quite easily from surfaces like shopping cart handles. If sanitation wipes are available (Many stores here have them) at the entrance, I'll wipe the handle down with one. At any rate, I make a point of washing my hands when I get home from the store. I rarely get sick.