UK Lawmakers Propose 'Latte Levy' To Cut Coffee Cup Waste

Andrew Aitchison via Getty Images                   The UK throws away 2.5bn disposable coffee cups every year

Starbucks has also today announced a trial in London to introduce a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups.

Coffee shops should be made to charge 25 pence for the use of disposable cups say MPs in Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). MCS's Beachwatch litter-surveying campaign has seen a reported 93 per cent increase in coffee cups found on United Kingdom beaches over the past five years.

"The paper cups we manufacture in the United Kingdom are sustainably sourced, responsibly produced, recyclable and, through a number of facilities, are being recycled".

"Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered. Nearly none are recycled and half a million a day are littered".

Chains Pret A Manger, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero and Greggs alongside US firm Starbucks are among the biggest coffee-sellers in Britain and have rapidly expanded in the last 10 years to meet increasing demand.

Labour MP Mary Creagh, chair of the committee said: "Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and the government has sat on its hands". It was the EAC's recommendations of banning microbeads that bolstered government into doing so (the full ban comes into effect this coming July).

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Responding to this announcement, Dr Laura Foster of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said: "We totally agree with the committee that if 100 per cent 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".

The 25 pence charge would go towards improving Britain's recycling and reprocessing facilities, the report said.

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

Starbucks said on Friday it would trial a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups for three months in about 20 London cafes.

Money raised from the trial will be used to fund a behavioural change study, undertaken by environmental charity group Hubbub, on how customers can be encouraged to use reusable cups.

The chain said its efforts to persuade customers to buy reusable cups had led to a 1.8% uptake.

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Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said the 5p plastic bag charge is proof that "these levies work".

Britain produces 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste each year.

"The whole point is to change behaviour and I'm glad the select committee has endorsed this Liberal Democrat campaign", he said. "No packaging type is totally recycled and a ban on paper cups would hit manufacturing jobs and damage a growing service industry which makes a major contribution to UK Plc", said Mike Turner, Speaking on behalf of the Alliance.

Only one per cent of the cups sold by cafés "to-go" are recycled, most are sent for landfill or incineration.

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.

The committee last month recommended the government introduce a plastic bottle deposit scheme to cut plastic waste and leakage into the oceans.

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The Grocer has contacted Pret and Costa for comment.

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