MPs Want a 'Latter Levy' to Cut Down on Disposable Cup Waste

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The latte levy was proposed in a new report authored by the Environmental Audit Committee, which revealed that many coffee consumers "mistakenly think that disposable cups are widely recycled".

If the target for recycling all disposable coffee cups by 2023 was not met, then the government should ban them altogether, the committee added.

Starbucks has also today announced a trial in London to introduce a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups. Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said the so-called "latte levy" being charged on top of the price of a drink would pay to improve the UK's reprocessing facilities and "binfastructure" and ultimately change people's behaviour.

The MPs urged ministers to set a target that all such cups be recycled by 2023, and "if this target is not achieved, the government should ban disposable coffee cups".

With coffee shops now a fixture in British society, the committee said that consumers are more responsive to extra charges than to discounts for bringing in their own reusable cups.

While some coffee shops provide discounts for customers who bring their own cup, such as Pret A Manger, the uptake of these offers is low at only 1-2% of coffee purchases, say EAC.

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"A "latte levy" of 25p will remind people that their normal coffee cup is typically lined with plastic making it hard to recycle, with more than 99 per cent of them destined for landfill or incineration". The multi-layer material prevents the cup being recycled in exclusively paper or plastics recycling streams. "If a sustainable recycling system for disposable coffee cups can not be set up by this date, they should be banned".

The UK generates 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste a year - enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall. While the report recommends that the money from the 25p charge goes toward this "infrastructure" - it makes way more sense to reduce the amount of plastic we demand in the first place, use of single use products like coffee cups, bottles, straws etc.

If all disposable coffee cups are recycled by 2023, that will require a lot of infrastructure - there are only three recycling facilities in the United Kingdom that can split the paper from the plastic for recycling at present (which is why less than 1% of cups are recycled).

But just four recycling companies in the United Kingdom can separate the plastic film lining the inside of the paper cup. Companies across the industry have been working to address this barrier and increase cup recycling.

"The government should set a target for all disposable coffee cups to be recycled by 2023", she said.

He said that for the so-called "latte levy" to be more than just "a light and frothy foam nod to reform" the United Kingdom needs to invest more in sustainable product design, use more recyclable materials and be better at "capturing" materials at the end of their life. According to the report, "almost half of all coffees and hot drinks" are sold in disposable cups. "It is only right that producers should bear more of the financial burden to help recycle their packaging, so my committee is calling for producer responsibility reform that rewards businesses that use sustainable packaging - and makes those that don't face higher charges".