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


In response to a group of MPs calling for a 25p "latte levy" on disposable paper coffee cups, Starbucks has revealed that it will trial a 5p charge across select London stores. 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.

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.

"Take-away coffee cups may look like cardboard through-and-through but on the inside they are lined with a plastic, making them hard to recycle and resulting in 99 per cent of them being destined for landfill or incineration".

United Kingdom politicians want the government to introduce a 25p (33 cents) "latte levy" on disposable coffee cups in an effort to eliminate waste.

"The revenue should be used to invest in reprocessing facilities and 'binfrastructure" to ensure that the remaining disposable cups are recycled'.

In a recently published report, a House of Commons committee said the Government had "sat on its hands" as disposable coffee cup waste has grown to an estimated 25,000 tons per year.

In October 2015, Britain introduced a charge of 5 pence on all single-use plastic bags provided by large shops, which led to an 83 percent reduction in United Kingdom plastic bags used in the first year.

"We need coffee cup producers, distributors and governments to take urgent action to rectify this - and if they can't achieve this by 2023, then they should be banned".

Time to crack out your reusable cups?

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

Labelling - make sure that customers know that cups are "not widely recycled" and how best to dispose of their cup (this will often mean taking it back to the coffee shop).

However, the difficulties surrounding the recycling of coffee cups are manifold: not only are recycling capabilities limited but the majority of cups go straight into the general waste.

While a charge could encourage the uptake of reusable cups, leading to a reduction in the amount of waste produced, the report also acknowledges the need for improved recycling capabilities to deal with the remaining disposable cups; only three reprocessors nationwide are now able to recycle disposable cups due to their mixed paper and plastic composition.

'We recommend the Government sets a target that all single use coffee cups should be recycled by 2023.

Mary Creagh MP added: "Most people are shocked and dismayed to hear that coffee cups are not recycled".

However, due to their plastic lining, customers who put them in the recyclable waste effectively contaminate it.

While some coffee shops did offer discounts to customers who brought their own cups, the committee said that uptake of such offers was between just 1 and 2 percent of coffee purchases. Companies across the industry have been working to address this barrier and increase cup recycling.

The committee's recommendations were welcomed by environmental campaigners. Is it about raising more money - from producers or consumers or both - to develop new, separate collection, sorting and treatment infrastructure for coffee cups and (surely) other forms of disposable food and beverage packaging?