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MPs call for 'latte levy' on disposable coffee cups

05 January, 2018, 13:41 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Some fear the cost of the levy will be passed on to the consumer

The plastic lining in coffee cups makes them costly to recycle, and the MPs say the businesses supplying and producing them do not bear the full costs of their disposal.

Thanks to the UK's ever-growing coffee shop culture, and the general trend for using disposable cups given at the counter rather than reusable ones brought in from home, the country is throwing away a huge 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year, according to a study by Cardiff University.

Many retailers sell cups bearing the Mobius Loop and other recycling symbols, but while the cups can be deposited at some retailers and soon at bring banks coordinated by the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK), they cannot be placed in mixed or paper-specific recycling bins - the resultant contamination can lead to more waste going to landfill.

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. As the report notes, coffee cups are becoming an iconic symbol of wasteful behaviour in the same way that plastic carrier bags did, but the issues here are significantly more complex. Neil Whittall, its Head of Coffee, said: "Whilst paper cups are fully recyclable, the industry recognises that many are not being recycled because of a lack of collection facilities".

In response, Starbucks said it would try out a 5p cup charge in 20 to 25 central London outlets.

He said that although disposable coffee cups only represent a small fraction of the national annual tonnage of card and plastics waste, "they leave the worst taste reminder of how on-the-go consumption can result in needless waste of our precious natural resources".

You may not know it, but taxpayers (you and me) pay for 90% of the cost incurred disposing of coffee 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. "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".

Even when consumers place coffee cups in recycling bins, there's now no way for recycling plants to recycle them.

Instead coffee chains perpetuated customer confusion that cups are widely recyclable when they are not.

"By generating greater volumes of cups for recycling this will create a market for the material, making cups more attractive to waste management companies and creating the potential for more schemes to be introduced to collect cups from a much wider range of locations such as offices and high street locations".

He said he had tried, but failed, to source easily recyclable cups.

Dr Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society welcomed the recommendations.

Mr Stemman said the industry should continue to focus on other environmental issues such as cutting water use, carbon reduction, and turning waste coffee grounds into biofuel.

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