Recycling and composting are such common practices now that people forget they were once considered “hippie” and unnecessary parts of the unique culture that fall under the umbrella term “Berkeley.” Now, you can find specified bins for different types of recyclables in most public and private spaces. But soon, that could end.
For years now, California, among other states, has been paying China to accept our recycling so it can get taken care of and turned into something new. As this happens, people think of it as their waste simply disappearing. But this mentality has allowed for the accumulation of an inconceivable amount of recycling, which is essentially trash. The situation has become so serious that recently China announced that they will no longer be accepting our copious amounts of recyclable waste. We can either start paying more than we can afford for other places to accept our recyclable content, or we can continue to let it pile up on our own soil and in our oceans. Neither of these options are actual solutions, and as the long-term options are being debated, the amount of waste is increasing.
Berkeley has in the past been a leader in the fight for getting people to recycle. Now, the fight is much greater, and Berkeley must once again set the example as we did with recycling, plastic bags, and styrofoam. This year, Berkeley took a major step in the direction of a zero waste future. Berkeley residents may have noticed that recently, restaurants and businesses have been only distributing disposables upon request. This is because of new legislation passed under Mayor Jesse Arreguin that calls for 100 percent reusable and compostable dine-in and take-out foodware by 2020. This new law as it stands is comprehensive, bold, and important.
The problem is, Berkeley and the rest of the world don’t have time to wait for neighboring communities and states to follow suit. Berkeley citizens need to get excited about this legislation so we can inspire other California voters to push their representatives to call for similar laws in state-wide government. Although this is a potentially expensive plan, it is way more economically and ethically feasible than the cost of having to repair the damage we are continuing to inflict upon the planet. Additionally, cities and states can afford to offer similar mini-grants and waivers such as the one Berkeley has committed to providing, in order to help businesses that cannot afford to comply with the law. This is something that other areas and the greater California can accomplish. Becoming knowledgeable and vocal about this legislation so that other communities do the same is not only something that is apart of Berkeley’s responsibility, but also something we cannot afford to go without.