Last month, the City of Berkeley, CA, unanimously passed the nation’s most ambitious, comprehensive ordinance on disposable plastic foodware to date. The new law requires that:
- Disposable items like utensils, straws, lids, and sleeves may only be provided upon request or at a self-serve station, not automatically.
- Food vendors must provide compost bins for customers.
- All disposable takeout foodware must be 100% BPI certified compostable by January 1, 2020.
- All vendors must charge $0.25 cents for hot and cold takeout cups by January 1, 2020.
- All eat-in customers must be served foods in reusable foodware by July 1, 2020.
This ordinance is a big win for the plastic-free, zero-waste movement, and it will require big changes for some Berkeley restaurants. But there are restaurants, whether in or outside Berkeley, that are already ahead of the game. Last year, I hung out with Heather Clapp of Jules Thin Crust pizza restaurant just up the street from me in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland (right on the Oakland/Berkeley border), who has been pushing zero waste practices in her establishment for years. She gave me a tour and fed me some amazing food! Let’s see how Jules Thin Crust would stand up to Berkeley’s new ordinance…
All eat-in customers must be served foods in reusable foodware.
When I first visited Jules a few years ago, just to get some pizza, I was immediately struck by the water station: A large stainless steel dispenser (Heather says it’s actually an olive oil jug you can get from olive oil companies) beside rows of real glasses. I took pictures of it then, and again during this visit!
From the restaurant’s inception, Heather knew they had to have space for a dishwasher so that they could serve foods in durable foodware. She served me a delicious organic kale and quinoa salad in a reusable ceramic bowl with stainless steel utensils.
My organic pizza slices (Summer Squash veggie #3 and Pesto Veggie with goat cheese #10) were served on a reusable wooden board.
The only disposable items were the paper napkin and the wax paper under the pizza.
All disposable takeout foodware must be 100% BPI certified compostable.
The pizzas in the case sit atop uncoated, compostable peach paper.
Jules’s pizza boxes are uncoated cardboard. And they give a discount to customers who bring their boxes back to be reused. (Reused by the customer for more pizza – NOT reused by the shop for other customers!)
Jules does offer compostable containers for take-out salads and will give you a composable fork, but only upon request. (That’s not Styrofoam, by the way, even if it looks like it in the picture. It’s actually bagasse, a waste product from sugarcane.)
Disposable items like utensils, straws, lids, and sleeves may only be provided upon request or at a self-serve station, not automatically.
In addition to having to request forks, Jules has always insisted its customers request straws if they want them. Initially, Heather didn’t want to have straws available at all. She said:
When we first opened our Danville store (9 years ago), compostable straws were not an option. Therefore, since I didn’t want to offer any straws at all (and my husband said that we had to offer something), we decided that we would keep one box of plastic straws in a cabinet, under our front counter and only give them out upon request. We are proud of the fact that it took us 2 full years to go through that original, first box of 500 straws. Some quick-serve restaurants might go through 500 straws in 2-3 hours, or in one day! It’s a question I always ask when interviewing potential new staff members: “How long do you think it took us to go through one box of 500 straws if we only gave them out upon request?” I love hearing the answers. :-)
Since then, Jules has shifted to compostable straws, but customers still have to ask for them. They also have to ask for parmesan and pepper flakes to go.
All vendors must charge $0.25 cents for hot and cold takeout cups.
Forget about it. Jules offers a variety of beverages bottled in glass, which you could take to go. But if you want their home-brewed iced tea, you’ll have to drink it in the restaurant or bring your own beverage container. Jules doesn’t offer to-go cups at all. (The only beverages not bottled in glass are the aseptic cartons of milk they have for kids. Jules tried offering milk in regular milk cartons but found it went bad too quickly.)
Food vendors must provide compost bins for customers.
Of course, in the Bay Area, where commercial composting is readily available, this should be a no-brainer.
The Big Picture
The long restaurant wall is decorated with a multitude of colorful photographs hung with clothespins on ropes.
But the pictures are not just of restaurant staff or customers, although there are some of those. The images go from very specific and local and gradually zoom out to reflect the wider planet, solar system, and space. Heather says, the photos show how we are all connected.
At Jules, you won’t find signs broadcasting the eco-friendly measures the restaurant has taken to reduce its environmental footprint. Heather says she doesn’t want to be preachy. She wants the steps they’ve taken to speak for themselves.