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Talking trash: Albany forum looks at shift to reusable products

By January 8, 2020 No Comments
In a world where communities are now having to pay for disposing of their recyclable items, some Bay Area cities are moving toward mandating businesses provide reusable cups and utensils and imposing surcharges on single-use plastics. (Photo by MPCA Photos/Flickr)

Local steps to address the global collapse of the recycling market will be the topic of a free talk by Martin Bourque, executive director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, at 7 p.m. Jan. 14 in Albany.

Bourque’s talk — “Healing a Trashed World — at 25 Cents a Cup?” — will look at the new ordinance enacted by Berkeley on disposable foodware as a model for reducing consumption of single-use items in favor of reusable.

The ordinance includes a 25-cent surcharge on takeout cups that took effect Jan. 1. According to the Ecology Center, 58 billion cups are thrown away annually in the United States and around the world.

The talk “takes us on a tour through the gritty world of the international trash trade and how it has left our ‘recycling’ system reeling” since the enactment of stricter standards on recyclable items by China, said Berkeley-based Friends of Five Creeks.

The organization is hosting the talk as part of its Bay Currents series, held in the parish hall at St. Alban’s Church, 1501 Washington Ave. in Albany.

The fee on cups is compared to the fee on disposable shopping bags that has spurred customers to bring their own reusable containers.

“Most of the single-use plastic foodware has no value in today’s recycling markets. With China’s ban on importing plastic scrap, cities are actually paying to get rid of it,” Bourque said when the Berkeley ordinance was enacted last year.

In addition to the cup fee, the ordinance limits the kinds of disposable foodware items that businesses can provide and mandates using exclusively compostable items.

Advocates say that disposable cups also pose a global problem for on oceans and storm water systems and cost millions of dollars to move around.

“With the international impact of disposable foodware becoming so clear in recent years, we must demonstrate that reusable solutions can prevent pollution and improve people’s dining experience at the same time,” Bourque said.

The free program starts with a social time and complimentary refreshments, with the presentation starting at 7:30 p.m.

Talks are held on the second Tuesday of the month. A schedule is online.