United Kingdom govt resists push for 'latte levy'

Tories accused of letting 'our planet choke' by rejecting 25p 'latte levy'

Although fewer than one in 400 disposable coffee cups are recycled in the United Kingdom, the government has decided not to introduce cup charges or recycling targets.

The government has been accused of taking "no real action" on tackling single-use coffee cups after failing to commit to a "latte levy".

The government cited the role of coffee chains in implementing reusable cup discounts and recycling infrastructure, and said it would like to see this extended to all businesses selling disposable cups.

"Evidence to our inquiry demonstrated that charges work better than discounts for reducing the use of non-recyclable materials - as was the case with the plastic bag charge", Creagh continued.

She added the Government was "ignoring the evidence" that charges are more effective than discounts in changing consumer behaviour.

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"Given the strength of public demand for action on plastic packaging, it is disappointing that Michael Gove didn't use this opportunity to indicate clear support for a levy on disposable coffee cups". The committee has published its response to the response, lamenting the lack of action.

The Government has refused the levy, opting instead for voluntary commitments.

Moreover, the committee recommended monetary incentives for producers to invest in greener packaging. The amount that United Kingdom producers pay towards the collection and recycling of their products, through purchasing Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) from companies that recycle the waste or export it overseas, is only around 10 per cent of the cost, while elsewhere in Europe that figure is much higher.

The Government did recognise the need for reform of the producer responsibility system that raises the cost on cups that are hard to recycle, although its response set out no planned measures. A consultation announced in November by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, into taxes and charges on takeaway packaging and plastic bottles has yet to be launched three months on.

"Coffee cups are the flawless example of how the UK's producer responsibility system has led to poor packaging recycling", Creagh commented.

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In related news, the National Audit Office (NAO) will scrutinise the Government's oversight of the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system after the EAC raised concerns that the scheme could be subject to fraud and non-compliance. Littering should be deterred through well-designed labels, although they admit that anti-littering messages are so ubiquitous that they have become ineffective.

Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said it was time coffee chains paid more to deal with the environmental damage their products cause. "Disposable paper cups are recyclable", he said.

The committee also recommended that coffee cup labelling should state where they can be recycled, but the government instead advocated voluntary anti-litter labelling.

In addition, EAC chairwoman Mary Creagh said the response to the committee's proposals was "not good enough".

At present, only one in 400 disposable coffee cups is recycled and around 2.5 billion cups end up in landfill each year.

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