A $.25 Cup Fee May be Coming to SF Soon

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At this year’s GGRA City Hall Lobby Day, Supervisor Katy Tang mentioned that she was working on legislation to ban straws and reduce the use of single use non-reusable cups by instituting a fee.  Supervisor Tang’s legislation, which she’s also championing on behalf of the San Francisco Department of Environment, would:

  • Require all food vendors to charge $.25 for providing disposable cups; like the bag fee, the charge would be required to appear on the receipt and the money would be kept by the business.
  • Ban the use of plastic straws, stirrers, toothpicks and cocktail sticks (paper, bamboo, wood or fiber would be fine).
  • Require that disposable items be provided upon request, which includes napkins, condiment packets and the items listed above.
  • Would require only Biodegradable Product Institute (BPI) certified compostable food ware only.
  • Minimum post-consumer recycled content would be required for disposable cups or other food ware.

The legislation also has a provision related to large events of 500 or more, requiring reusable cups for 10% of the attendees.

GGRA has been working hard with Supervisor Tang and the Department of the Environment to make this legislation less onerous. So far there have been two huge victories related to our advocacy along with our other business community partners, 1) the original legislation would have required reusable food ware only for dine-in and 2) would have required a $.25 charge for disposable food containers (pick up, leftovers and delivery options). Both of these provisions have been abandoned.

We’ve been most focused on the issue of impracticality of reusable cups in a cold beverage/fountain drink environment.  This would require the Department of Public Health to create new regulations to govern this to deal with sanitary concerns, which would include new postings.

The second is the size of the fee, which at $.25 seems excessive, and in the case of cold/fountain beverages, could actually represent a large tax on the overall cost of the drink.  In restaurants where self-serve water is provided for free, $.25 would have to be charged if a person wanted a cup and was lacking one, or restaurants would need to provide glassware next to the water to avoid this cost.

The Department of the Environment cites a study from 2016 study that found that $.25 was the threshold by which consumers were most likely to bring their own cup (59 percent).  According to their study, 77 percent of customers support a disposable cups fee and 71 percent of cafe owners supported it if they could keep the money. To see full study please visit here.  

Regardless, we are working with the Supervisor and the Department because we believe in this current financial climate as costs are rising, a substantial cup fee could hurt beverage sales since they’re completely discretionary.  We’ll keep you updated as the legislation moves toward introduction. For more information, feel free to contact Chhavi@ggra.org.

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