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Why you may soon have to pay 25p more for your takeaway coffee

Posted by
Susan Devaney
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MPs are asking the government to introduce a ‘latte levy’ to help reduce the billions of cups that go unrecycled every year. 

MPs are calling for a 25p ‘latte levy’ to be added to the current price of takeaway cups to help combat the billions of cups that go unrecycled every year.

The Environmental Audit Committee also suggested that the government should set a future target to guarantee that all paper cups are recycled by 2023, in a new report.

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.

With many consumers believing that the takeaway cup they currently purchase can be recycled, the report 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 throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet five and a half times. Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered. Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands,” said Mary Creagh, MP and environmental audit committee chair.

“The UK’s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kickstart a revolution in recycling. 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.”

“The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year”

The committee said funds raised from the ‘latte levy’ would go towards financing more recycling plants.

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 report also called for a change in current labelling to help consumers: “It is unacceptable that coffee sellers are perpetuating customer confusion through their use of recycling labels and emphasis on the recyclability of coffee cups, despite the shockingly low recycling rate.

“Those without in-store recycling should print their cups with a not widely recyclable label.”

Starbucks announced it would introduce a trial 5p charge on takeaway cups for three months in several cafes in Central London from February. The money made from the charge will be donated to a charity to assist in studies on how to encourage the consumers to use reusable cups.

The committee stood firm in stating that if measures weren’t taken to better recycle then the government must ban them altogether.

“There is no excuse for the ongoing reluctance from government and industry to address coffee cup waste,” the report said.

“Disposable coffee cups are an avoidable waste problem and if the UK cannot be confident of their future sustainability, the government should ban them.”

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 usage here.

Images: Marion Michele / iStock