Fed up with burger wrappers, french fry containers and paper cups, Oakland is the first city in the nation to force fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses to help pay for cleaning up street trash.
Under a tax approved Tuesday night by the City Council, businesses will be assessed between $230 and $3,815 annually, depending on their size. More than three-quarters of the affected businesses would only pay the minimum fee, which amounts to 63 cents a day.
"I don't think that's too much to ask so neighbors don't have to keep picking up trash from their doorways," said Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who proposed the measure.
The city would use the projected $237,000 a year to hire small crews to pick up litter in commercial areas around high schools and middle schools where most of the garbage is found.
The fee was opposed by the Metropolitan Oakland Chamber of Commerce and business organizations that say the costs will be passed along to customers, including low-income residents and young people who are the biggest consumers of fast food.
Businesses say the city should educate the public and enforce littering laws. Some say they already pay employees to pick up trash in their neighborhoods.
Litter from fast-food restaurants has become a major problem in communities nationwide.
Recent surveys show that fast-food packaging makes up about 20 percent of all litter, with packaging for chip bags, drink containers, candy wrappers and other snacks comprising another 20 percent, said Rob Wallace, a spokesman for Keep America Beautiful, a Stamford, Conn.-based nonprofit group.