Government urged to introduce 25p "latte levy" on coffee cups from MPs

A cross-party committee called for urgent action to curb the mountain of up to five billion disposable coffee cups dumped each year in the UK almost none of which are recycled

'Latte levy' could be imposed on UK coffee drinkers to reduce disposable cup waste

"The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet five and a half times", said Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee, in a statement.

While the Irish government has already proposed a charge on disposable coffee cups, and Bristol City Council recently voted to charge for cups in all its buildings, United Kingdom officials have so far been loathe to commit to a similar scheme, with Resources Minister Therese Coffey commenting in November that voluntary action was already being taken within the industry (for instance, Starbucks offer a 25 pence discount for using a disposable cup).

It follows research which shows the United Kingdom throws away 2.5 billion paper cups every year, with many consumers believing they are being recycled when less than 1 per cent actually are. Half a million coffee cups are littered each day in the United Kingdom, the report said.

In the trial, "we will be exploring the impact that a cup charge may have in changing behaviour in addition to the measures we, and the whole industry, are taking on cup recycling", Starbucks said.

A lot of coffee shops offer discounts if people bring their own cup, but MPs claim that only 1-2 per cent of people actually take advantage of that.

Foodservice Packaging Association executive director Martin Kersh fears a ban on disposable cups would cause some coffee shops to close.

No one likes to pay more, but charges work - most people carry a reusable shopping bag since the introduction of the plastic bag charge, and the idea is that a "latte levy" will encourage reusable alternatives, or "drinking in" with a china cup.

It added that if disposable coffee cups aren't all fully recyclable by 2023, they should be banned.

'Latte levy' could be imposed on UK coffee drinkers to reduce disposable cup waste
Government urged to introduce 25p "latte levy" on coffee cups from MPs

The government has agreed that plastic waste is a problem, and has promised to look into a tax on single-use plastics, and plans to reveal a new policy later this year.

"It is unacceptable that coffee sellers are perpetuating customer confusion though their use of recycling labels and emphasis on the recyclability of coffee cups, despite the shockingly low recycling rate", the report said.

The Committee added that the money raised will be used to improve the UK's recycling "binfrastructure" and reprocessing facilities.

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

A coffee cup recycling point is displayed in the City of London.

But just four recycling companies in the United Kingdom can separate the plastic film lining the inside of the paper cup.

"By singling out disposable cups the committee is, by its own admission, looking for United Kingdom coffee retailers and their cup providers to underwrite the waste management of all packaging used on the go", he said.

The MPs say throwaway cups should be prohibited altogether by 2023 if they are not all being recycled. "Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will reuse become the norm in place of single-use and throw away".

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