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Government accused of “warm words, no action” on latte levy to help the environment

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Susan Devaney
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A proposal to introduce a ‘latte levy’ to help combat environmental waste has been rejected by parliament. 

In 2018 many people are aiming to remove single-use plastic from their lives in favour of more environmentally-friendly alternatives as the polluting material and recycling becomes a talking point across the globe.

Now, a proposal from MPs suggesting a 25p ‘latte levy’ be added to the current price of takeaway cups has been rejected by the government.

Mary Creagh, the chair of the environmental audit committee, accused ministers of being all talk and no action as they questioned the effectiveness of the charge on throwaway cups, which if instated would hopefully be as successful as the plastic bag levy.

Ministers have suggested it would be more beneficial for coffee shops to offer voluntary discounts to customers bringing their own cups.

In January, the committee also suggested in a report that the government should set a future target to guarantee that all paper cups are recycled by 2023.

“Targets should be challenging, but realistic,” the government said in response to the suggestion. “100% recycling from collection is unobtainable as there will always be contamination in the waste stream – either from the beverage itself, or from other items disposed of alongside the cup.”

With many consumers believing that the takeaway cup they currently purchase can be recycled, the report also accused coffee chains of “pulling the wool over customers’ eyes” as only one in 400 cups can actually be recycled – less than 0.25%.

Current recycling systems struggle to recycle the cups due to the mix of material they’re made from. Even though most cups are made from cardboard, the tight polyethylene liner restricts recycling.

The UK produces around 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste every year, the report found, with half a million cups littering the country each day.

Some coffee chains currently offer a 25p discount to customers who bring their own reusable cup, but the report found it to be “ineffective” thus far. The committee noted the comparison to the plastic bag charge which reduced usage by around 83% in its first year in England in 2015.

“The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis,” says Creagh.

“The government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action.” 

A consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on a plastic deposit scheme was carried out last autumn but has not yet been published. 

The government said the concept of a latte tax would be considered as part of a call for evidence on single-use plastics.

But according to the committee, if introduced the ‘latte levy’ could lead to the reduction of 50-300 million disposable cups per year. Time to invest in a KeepCup we reckon.

Find other ways to reduce your plastic waste here.

Images: Unsplash / Twitter

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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