5 January 2018

MPs in the UK ask for a “latte levy” on takeaway coffee cups

The Environmental Audit Committee has called the British government to introduce a 25p levy on single-use takeaway coffee cups and have urged for the need for all the cups to be recycled by 2023.

The Committee issued a report explaining that the UK disposes more than 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups per year, an amount enough to circle the planet five and a half times. Half a million cups are thrown away every day, with almost all of them incinerated, exported or landfilled.

Mary Creagh MP, Environmental Audit Committee Chair, said: “Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and Government has sat on its hands”.

"The UK’s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick-start a revolution in recycling. We’re calling for action to reduce the number of single-use cups, promote reusable cups over disposable cups and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023”, she added.

The money to be raised by the “latte levy” should be used to improve the country’s recycling infrastructure and reprocessing facilities, advises the committee.

If the target of 100 percent recycling of disposable cups is not achieved by 2023, then the government is called to put a ban disposable cups similar to the one currently imposed on plastic bags.

In addition, the committee also has suggested that the government should set up a producer responsibility compliance fee structure that rewards packaging design which facilitates recycling and puts a fine on packaging, which is difficult to recycle.

MPs also explained that consumers should be included in that conversation through improved labeling which will offer proper guidance on how to best dispose of coffee cups.

“Coffee shops have been pulling the wool over customers’ eyes, telling us their cups can be recycled, when less than 1 percent are”, Ms. Creagh said regarding the confusion that coffee chains have created about coffee cups being eligible for recycling.

“Most people are shocked and dismayed to hear that coffee cups are not recycled. Coffee shops have been sending out mixed messages for years, emphasising that their cups are ‘recyclable’ and staying silent on the fact they are not actually recycled. Those without in-store recycling should print their cups with a not widely recyclable label”.

The report stresses the triumph of the plastic bags ban in the UK, and the behavioural change it created. During the first year of its implementation, bag usage decreased by more than 83 percent and proved that consumers are more responsive to a charge rather than a discount.

You can access the full “Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups” report here

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