Call for 'latte levy' to cut disposable coffee cup waste

Michele Moreno
January 5, 2018

A 25 pence (34 cents) levy on disposable coffee cups should be introduced and all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023, according to the United Kingdom parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.

Over the course of the inquiry, the committee heard that the UK's total annual coffee cup waste (30,000 tonnes) is enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall and estimates suggest that by 2025 more than 3.75 billion disposable cups could be used per year, yet just 0.25 per cent of those now used are recycled.

In a statement Friday, the committee said that revenue from the levy should be invested in reprocessing facilities and recycling "binfrastructure".

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.

Now the United Kingdom goes through 500,000 coffee cups a day, most of which are not recycled - and can't be thanks to the mix of materials that makes them sturdy and waterproof. With that in mind, the committee has also asked that the government force coffee shops to label cups to inform consumers that they're not widely recycled.

Additionally, it said that producers needed to pay more for packaging that proved hard to recycle, and that labeling needed to be improved so that consumers knew how to properly dispose of their cups.

But just four recycling companies in the United Kingdom can separate the plastic film lining the inside of the paper cup. This is strong stuff, but in the meantime - with 2.5 billion coffee cups being dished out yearly - we need to make sure this happens sooner rather than later.

"I am an expert in making fantastic coffee, but they (the cup manufacturers) are the ones with the knowledge and resources to be able to change".

But they added: "We are encouraged by industry action to increase the recycling of paper cups, with some major retail chains now offering discounts to customers with reusable cups".

You can access the full "Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups" report here. We are committed to increasing recycling rates.

Time to crack out your reusable cups?

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.

'Taxing the morning coffee run will not address the issue of litter but it will hurt consumers and impact already struggling high streets'.

However, the Marine Conservation Society said the levy should be a "stepping stone" to a target of 100 per cent of single use coffee cups being recycled.

The committee's recommendations were welcomed by environmental campaigners.

Other reports by Insurance News

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