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

Saul Bowman
January 5, 2018

The report proposed a 25 pence (0.28 euro, $0.34) "latte levy" on disposable coffee cups, saying the money raised could be used to improve recycling facilities.

The Environmental Audit Committee believes that all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023.

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, said that 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups were thrown away in the United Kingdom every year, with nearly none recycled and 500,000 per day littered.

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

The second full report from the EAC's inquiry into the effects of disposable drinks packaging, released today (5 January), calls for the government to introduce legislation similar to the plastic bag charge in order to bring the UK's use of disposable coffee cups under control.

"The U.K.'s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling", she said.

Several leading coffee shop chains in Britain, including the largest, Costa, offer discounts for customers who use their own re-usable cups. The multi-layer material prevents the cup being recycled in exclusively paper or plastics recycling streams. If an effective recycling system is not established and achieves high levels of recycling by this date, the Government should ban disposable coffee cups.

According to a report released by EAC on Friday (5 January), the United Kingdom produces 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste each year and an eye-watering 500,000 cups are thrown away each day. "We're calling for clearer labelling so people can make informed choices about their use and disposal of coffee cups".

The tax would reduce in line with improved recycling rates for coffee cups. Companies across the industry have been working to address this barrier and increase cup recycling.

"To understand how better this could work we are delighted to announce a partnership with Starbucks that will trial and promote a 5p cup charge in 20 - 25 central London stores".

He said that for the so-called "latte levy" to be more than just "a light and frothy foam nod to reform" the United Kingdom needs to invest more in sustainable product design, use more recyclable materials and be better at "capturing" materials at the end of their life.

"We will investigate the impact of a 5p charge on a paper cup, coupled with prominent marketing of reusable cups, on customer behaviour", it said in a statement posted on its website. Costa is also collecting cups from rival brands in its shops.

The government now follows targets set by the EU Waste Directive for recycling paper and plastic, but none refers specifically to the mixed-material cups; moreover, there are no confirmed targets in place for once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. "No packaging type is totally recycled and a ban on paper cups would hit manufacturing jobs and damage a growing service industry which makes a major contribution to UK Plc", said Mike Turner, Speaking on behalf of the Alliance.

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