MPs call for 25p tax on disposable coffee cups

Casey Dawson
January 5, 2018

"We agree with the committee that if complete recycling of coffee cups isn't reached by 2023, then there should be an outright ban on providing them - and that date should be set in stone".

The Irish parliament is considering banning single-use coffee cups whilst the German city Hamburg said in 2016 that it will no longer use coffee-makers with aluminium capsules in its own offices or buildings.

The government now follows targets set by the EU Waste Directive for recycling paper and plastic, but none refers specifically to the mixed-material cups; moreover, there are no confirmed targets in place for once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

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).

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, said that 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups were thrown away in the United Kingdom every year, with nearly none recycled and 500,000 per day littered.

Just five retailers have taken up Cropper's cup recycling initiative and the firm has recycled just 10m cups following a target of 500 million a year.

The committee said it was "disappointed" that only Costa and Starbucks provided written evidence for its investigation, and not other major retailers, including Caffe Nero and the supermarket chains Tesco, Morrisons and Pret a Manger. Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands. It's also been suggested that the cups be phased out, with a full ban by 2023.

Several leading coffee shop chains in Britain, including the largest, Costa, offer discounts for customers who use their own re-usable cups.

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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.

However, MPs criticised coffee chains for confusing customers by perpetuating the notion coffee cups are recyclable. The three-month trial will begin in February.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said the 5p plastic bag charge is proof that "these levies work".

Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president at Veolia UK & Ireland disagreed with the idea of how the levy should be spent, commenting that the funds raised should be used to fund the collection of cups instead.

The committee last month recommended the government introduce a plastic bottle deposit scheme to cut plastic waste and leakage into the oceans.

Research by psychologists suggests charging customers 25p for a disposable cup would have a greater impact, reducing the number sold by up to 30%.

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

On Friday the environment ministry said the government was working closely with the sector and had made progress in increasing recycling rates.

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