25p 'latte levy' would boost recycling rates - MPs

Marie Harrington
January 5, 2018

A report on disposable coffee cups by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said 2.5 billion were used in the United Kingdom every year, with only 0.25% being recycled, and producing 30,000 tonnes of waste annually. The charge on disposable cups would be paid by consumers on top of the price of their coffee, and would be lowered as the recycling rate improves, it said.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee, says the UK's coffee shop industry is "expanding rapidly", so it's necessary to take action now to kickstart a "revolution" in cup recycling.

The Environmental Audit Committee is calling on the Government to introduce a minimum 25p charge to cut waste in the same way the plastic bag levy has done in supermarkets.

The extra cash would be used to invest in reprocessing facilities and "binfrastructure" to ensure disposable cups and other food and drink packaging is recycled.

In October 2015, Britain introduced a charge of 5 pence on all single-use plastic bags provided by large shops, which led to an 83 percent reduction in United Kingdom plastic bags used in the first year.

'Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands.

"Whether or not the Government is willing to consider a levy, there is still a lot more work to be done by all the stakeholders involved to develop a sensible solution to this very modern waste problem". It's also been suggested that the cups be phased out, with a full ban by 2023.

However, the London trial, which will run for three months starting in February, is an important first step by the USA chain - and the proposals are a victory for the Daily Mail's Curb the Cups campaign.

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"The UK has woken up and smelled the coffee cup nightmare", celebrity chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, said in a statement welcoming the report.

You may not know it, but taxpayers (you and me) pay for 90% of the cost incurred disposing of coffee cups.

Most paper recycling facilities reject cups because it is hard to separate the plastic inner lining from the paper, meaning only 1% of those thrown away each year are recycled.

If this target is not met, the Audit Committee called on the government to completely ban disposable coffee cups.

Some coffee shops give customers discounts for bringing their own refillable cups.

Instead coffee chains perpetuated customer confusion that cups are widely recyclable when they are not.

David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery, remarked that while the tax may be helpful, it has to be part of a wider reform that "shifts the burden of responsibility for all forms of packaging content, recyclability and ultimately their collection, back to the producer". The committee said the impact on consumer behaviour of the plastic bag charge - which reduced bag usage by more than 83% in the first year - showed consumers are more responsive to a charge than a discount.

On Friday Starbucks said that it would start a three-month trial of a 5p paper cup charge in up to 25 London shops from next month.

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Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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