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UK Lawmakers Propose 'Latte Levy' To Cut Coffee Cup Waste

05 January 2018

Starbucks has pledged it will roll out a three-month trial of a 5p charge on disposable cups in up to 25 London stores.

Yet if the 25p tax, advocated today by Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee headed by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, changes behaviour, encourages recycling and reduces the amount of discarded plastic, it's a small price to pay - the United Kingdom throws away 2.5 billion disposal coffee cups every year.

"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.

You can access the full "Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups" report here.

"Disposable coffee cups may only represent a small fraction of the national annual tonnage of card and plastics produced which are lost from our recycling streams, but they leave the worst taste reminder of how on-the-go consumption can result in needless waste of our precious natural resources".

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Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh said: 'Almost none are recycled and half-a-million a day are littered.

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.

MPs said: "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 trial will begin next month and initially last for three months.

Back in 2016 it trialled applying a 50p discount for customers using reusable cups, but it said that this "did not move the needle in the way we thought it might".

A more focused target has thus been recommended: all single-use coffee cups placed in recycling bins to be recycled by 2023. Costa is also collecting cups from rival brands in its shops.

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The promotion of a charge for disposable cups, rather than a discount for customers bringing reusable cups, comes down to a question of effectiveness, according to the Committee.

"The evidence is clear that these levies work - the 5p charge on plastic bags has massively reduced usage and helped protect our environment".

Coffee chains have been "pulling the wool over the eyes" of customers by letting them believe paper cups can be recycled, MPs warned. "The government must do the same and introduce the levy as soon as possible". "Equally, the levy should be discounted when coffee shops do actually recycle - otherwise it presents no incentive and instead amounts to a general taxation".

The "latte levy" is one of several potential solutions to disposable packaging outlined by the Committee.

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 hard to recycle.

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It recommended that a 25p tax should be applied to single use cups to encourage consumers to use alternatives.

UK Lawmakers Propose 'Latte Levy' To Cut Coffee Cup Waste