HAYWARD, Calif. — Hayward has a litter problem and city staff are working on an ordinance to curb the issue by preventing restaurants from using paper and plastic plates, cups, and utensils for dine-in customers.
On Monday, Sept. 11, city staff sought feedback from the Hayward Council Sustainability Committee in refining a proposed ordinance on single-use disposable food ware, which would mandate restaurants adopt reusable food ware for in-house dining and require businesses to accept reusable containers from customers, along with other provisions. City staff recognized that this could pose challenges for food establishments lacking dishwashing capabilities, so they are actively engaging with them before settling on any specifics.
The city’s 2022 Literatti Report set out to establish a baseline of litter levels in Hayward and found the most common pieces of trash in the city were by far cigarette butts (between 2,500 and 3,000 per season), followed by bottle caps (around 420 to 460), tissue (300 to 350), cups (235 to 280) and bottles (230 to 270). Hundreds of face masks, labels, lids, cans, straws and boxes were also found around the city.
Although state law already bars restaurants from automatically offering disposable food ware, Hayward has been relying on a complaint-based approach for enforcement. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority, known as StopWaste, is recommending cities exceed state requirements to ensure full compliance. StopWaste, which envisions creating a circular economy in the region that would render landfills obsolete, created a blueprint for a disposable single-use food ware ordinance that the city of Hayward is tailoring to its own needs.
Councilmember Julie Roche said it was important to partner with Chabot College since the area around the campus is a litter hot spot. She also expressed frustration with large companies like Target and Starbucks, which are still handing out plastic bags and failing to put out recycling bins. The Literatti Report noted Starbucks as one of the top brands found in the litter surveyed around the city.
Councilmember Francisco Zermeño said there needs to be a campaign educating food service providers on why they should not be providing single-use items like straws unless asked.
The council members expressed interest in applying pressure on producers of single-use packaging to transition to sustainable materials.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.
Graphic caption: A map shows the hot spots for litter in Hayward, with the area around Costco in southwest Hayward being a particular hot spot. (Courtesy of Hayward)