Call for 'latte levy' to cut disposable coffee cup waste

Marsha Scott
January 5, 2018

With that in mind, the committee has also asked that the government force coffee shops to label cups to inform consumers that they're not widely recycled.

Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the parliamentary group, said it was time for a "revolution" in recycling.

According to EAC, 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away annually in the United Kingdom, with nearly none being recycled and half a million per day being littered.

"Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered", added Creagh.

"We urge the government to ensure that if any potential tax is considered, that it is ring-fenced and used specifically to invest in new "binfrastructure" and to improve recycling processes with local authorities that make it easier to separate and stream paper cups and other waste products".

This week, Pret doubled the discount offered to customers who bring in a reusable coffee cup from 25p to 50p.

Green Party lawmaker and EAC committee member Caroline Lucas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the reforms were "long overdue" and hoped that they would change behaviour.

It recommended that a 25p tax should be applied to single use cups to encourage consumers to use alternatives.

The EAC said it had learnt from this example that consumers were often more responsive to charges than discounts.

"Now there's no way this horrendous and avoidable problem can be put back to sleep".

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The tax would reduce in line with improved recycling rates for coffee cups.

He said that although disposable coffee cups only represent a small fraction of the national annual tonnage of card and plastics waste, "they leave the worst taste reminder of how on-the-go consumption can result in needless waste of our precious natural resources".

Mike Turner, of the Paper Cup Alliance, said paper cups were the most sustainable and safe solution for drinks on the go.

From this, the Committee found that consumers are more likely to respond to a charge than a discount, as shown by the plastic bag charge, which reduced plastic bag use by over 83%.

While a charge could encourage the uptake of reusable cups, leading to a reduction in the amount of waste produced, the report also acknowledges the need for improved recycling capabilities to deal with the remaining disposable cups; only three reprocessors nationwide are now able to recycle disposable cups due to their mixed paper and plastic composition.

However, MPs criticised coffee chains for confusing customers by perpetuating the notion coffee cups are recyclable.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said it welcomed Friday's recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee.

"There is no excuse for the ongoing reluctance from government and industry to address coffee cup waste".

A 5p charge on coffee cups was first proposed by the Liberal Democrats after it emerged a year ago that only one in 400 was being recycled.

Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president at Veolia UK & Ireland disagreed with the idea of how the levy should be spent, commenting that the funds raised should be used to fund the collection of cups instead.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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