MPs call for 25p 'latte levy’ to cut cup waste

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 5 January 2018

MCS says it welcomes the recommendations in a report out today from the Environmental Audit Committee calling for a ‘latte levy’ of 25p on disposable coffee cups with the revenue raised paying for improved recycling facilities.

Coffee by the sea
© Stuart Askew

We totally agree with the committee that if 100% 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. Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will re-use become the norm in place of single-use and throw away

Dr Laura Foster,
MCS Head of Clean Seas

In the last five years, the MCS Beachwatch beach clean and survey programme has seen an increase of 93% in coffee cups found on UK beaches.

MCS says having to pay extra will highlight to consumers that their cardboard coffee cup is typically lined with plastic, meaning recycling is extremely difficult.

Dr Laura Foster, MCS Head of Clean Seas, said “Just like the plastic bag charge we are all now familiar with, a charge added to our coffee at the point of purchase will help consumers think about whether to take a refillable cup to the café and encourage cafés to use traditional cups and mugs rather than hand out single-use cups when it’s not necessary.”

Take-away coffee cups may look like cardboard through-and-through but on the inside they are lined with a plastic, making them hard to recycle and resulting in 99% of them being destined for landfill or incineration.

The committee is calling on the Government to introduce a 25p charge on disposable cups on top of the price of a coffee, with the money raised used to improve the UK’s reprocessing facilities and “binfrastructure” to ensure cups and other food and drink packaging is recycled. In its report the committee says all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023, and be banned if the target is not met.

Some shops give money off the price of a hot drink for customers who use reusable cups, such as Pret A Manger, which has just doubled its discount to 50p.

But the committee said uptake of these offers was low at only 1% to 2% of coffee purchases, and consumers were more responsive to a charge than a discount based on the success of the 5p single-use plastic bag levy.

“We totally agree with the committee that if 100% 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. Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will re-use become the norm in place of single-use and throw away,” said Laura Foster.

Last year, a YouGov survey for MCS revealed that 74% - that’s almost three out of four people questioned across the UK - would support a charge on single use coffee cups.

The poll asked people if they would support paying a deposit on disposable coffee cups to encourage the use of refillable cups or cups being returned for recycling. Only 8% of responders opposed such charges.

70% of people surveyed also supported a ban on the use of polystyrene food containers and cups, with most support coming from those aged 55 or over.

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Mary Creagh MP, said: “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.

Coffee shops have been pulling the wool over customers’ eyes, telling us their cups can be recycled, when less than 1% are. The Government should set a target for all disposable coffee cups to be recycled by 2023. If a sustainable recycling system for disposable coffee cups cannot be set up by this date, they should be banned.”

The committee said cups from cafes that do not have in-store recycling systems should be printed with “not widely recycled” labels to boost consumer awareness, while cafes that do have recycling systems should label their cups as “recyclable in store only”.

It is also calling on the Government to set fees for producers who make packaging that is difficult to recycle.

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017
  2. Help us stop the plastic tide

Did you know?…

We removed 568,000 pieces of litter from our coasts in one year

Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

Help protect 40% of English seas

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