Letter to the Editor Fast Food Litter Tax in Oakland CA


Berkely Daily Planet 3.24.06

Editors, Daily Planet:

In your coverage of the Oakland City Council vote to tax fast food, liquor stores and convenience markets for littering Oakland streets, I was surprised you repeated the arguments of the Chamber of Commerce without analysis. These commercial establishments, by delivering every serving in throwaway containers, have increased their profits through the elimination of a huge portion of the true costs of doing business by shifting trash-related costs onto the city, the environment and the streets and since most fast food restaurants and coffee shops no longer deal with plates, forks, spoons and cups used by their customers, they no longer hire dishwashers, busboys (and girls), waiters or food servers. Gone are these entry level jobs. They put their product in cardboard and plastic.

The overwhelming majority of their containers ends up in city-sponsored garbage receptacles, while a small percentage ends up on the street or in the gutter. The Oakland litter tax is a small recompense for the windfall profit they reap by eliminating these food service-related issues.

These industries will claim “the customer wants the convenience of throwaway containers” or they blame it on the public’s penchant for littering, and threaten lawsuits. Let them squawk. While locals are busted and fined for illegal dumping of “household” or “business-related” garbage, the highest form of illegal dumping is your local McDonald’s franchise that expects the city to provide garbage service for free. These food corporations and restaurants have shifted their waste problem on to the city and the street. Kudos to Jane Brunner for her small attempt to shift the responsibility back where it belongs.

But, you and I are not off the hook. Every one of us who takes a cardboard cup, a plastic lid, a paper or clamshell food container, whether dumped in the trash can, the garbage slot or the gutter, are complicit in this capitalist enterprise of shifting the costs of our convenience onto the earth, our children, the city and the future.

Hank Chapot Oakland Ca

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