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Berkeley raises a glass to reusable beverage cup service

By July 25, 2019 July 30th, 2019 No Comments
A pilot program in Berkeley will offer reusable stainless steel cups in place of traditional disposable beverage containers. (Photo courtesy of Ecology Center)

The city of Berkeley will launch a reusable cup loan service later this year to reduce food ware waste, the Berkeley-based nonprofit Ecology Center announced.

Select businesses on the UC Berkeley campus and in the Telegraph Avenue area in South Berkeley will partner with Vessel, a reusable to-go cup service based in Boulder, Colorado, starting in mid-September, according to the Ecology Center.

Vessel provides stainless steel cups with silicone lids to participating customers through an online app in a system that resembles bike sharing and library book loaning.

Customers check out Vessel cups by scanning a code on the cup with their phone’s camera. When they are done, they can return the cup to any participating business within five days or else face a fine.

The dirty cups are then picked up by Vessel via a bicycle pedicab, washed, and returned to cafes and restaurants for reuse, according to the Ecology Center.

The pilot program follows the Single-Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance, which was recently passed in the city. The first phase of the ordinance, which went into effect in March, limits the kinds of disposable food ware items that businesses can provide.

The second phase, effective Jan. 1, 2020, requires vendors to supply exclusively compostable items and to charge a 25-cent fee for each disposable cup they provide, according to the city.

“Bringing back reusables is our ultimate goal,” Councilwoman Sophie Hahn said in a news release. “They worked for millennia, and I am confident we can make them work again. This reuse pilot will allow us to explore new approaches to adapt reusables to current expectations for convenience, reduce waste and litter, and help our small businesses offer products that are attractive and convenient for customers.”

Funding for the program was provided by the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund Award. Plastics Solutions Fund and StopWaste provided additional funding, according to the Ecology Center.