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

Kristopher Drake
January 5, 2018

The MPs say throwaway cups should be prohibited altogether by 2023 if they are not all being recycled.

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

The committee's report states: 'There is no excuse for the reluctance we have seen from Government and industry to address coffee cup waste.

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. Half a million cups are thrown away every day, with nearly all of them incinerated, exported or landfilled.

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

Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President at Veolia UK & Ireland, highlighted the progress it had already made in pioneering coffee cup recycling, working in partnership with Costa, Starbucks and McDonald's.

The party's environment spokesman, Tim Farron, said: "I'm glad our call for a coffee cup charge is gaining traction".

The Daily Mail has led calls to "curb the cups" and crack down on plastic, campaigning to protect the environment with measures such as a deposit scheme for plastic bottles and the 5p levy on disposable plastic carrier bags.

He added that paper cups are the "most sustainable and safe solution" for drinks on the go. The multi-layer material prevents the cup being recycled in exclusively paper or plastics recycling streams.


This was welcomed by the committee, which heard evidence during the inquiry that consumer confusion around coffee cups is contributing to poor recycling rates.

The MPs point out that while some coffee shops offer discounts for customers who bring their own cup, only 1 to 2% of coffee drinkers respond.

While consumers have been led to believe disposable coffee cups are widely recyclable and recycled, the report pointed to evidence that less than 1% actually get recycled, in part because their plastic liner makes them hard and costly to do so.

"Disposable coffee cups are an avoidable waste problem and if the United Kingdom can not be confident of their future sustainability, the government should ban them".

On the back of the Audit Committee's report, Starbucks announced that it was to introduce a 5p charge on disposable cups in 20-25 of its London stores as part of a trial, with all proceeds to go to environmental consultancy Hubbub.

The UK generates 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste a year - enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall.

Coffee cups are used for a matter of moments, but will pollute our planet for centuries to come.

"Research has shown that consumers react better to an additional charge than a discount", Creagh told HuffPost.

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. Within a year, England's use of plastic bags had declined by 85 per cent.

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