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05 January 2018, 01:38 | Damon Campbell
'Latte levy' could be imposed on UK coffee drinkers to reduce disposable cup waste
The Environment Audit Committee released its report, "Disposable packaging: Coffee Cups", earlier today which called on the government to both introduce a 25p tax and aim to recycle 100% of coffee cups by 2023 (see letsrecycle.com story).
While consumers have been led to believe disposable coffee cups are widely recyclable and recycled, the report pointed to evidence that less than 1% actually get recycled, in part because their plastic liner makes them hard and costly to do so.
The committee's chair, Mary Creagh MP, said: "The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year - that's enough to circle the planet five and a half times".
Disposable cups can not be recycled by the normal systems because they are made from cardboard with a tightly bonded polyethylene liner, which is hard to remove, and means they are not accepted by paper mills.
If the target for recycling all disposable coffee cups by 2023 was not met, then the government should ban them altogether, the committee added.
Costa Coffee said it offered a 25 pence discount to those using reusable cups but the government needed to focus on improving recycling infrastructure.
MPs also called for a target to be set by the Government to ban all non-recyclable coffee cups by 2023 and increase charges for companies which do not invest in materials which can be reused, as in other countries.
The report sheds light on the UK's growing love affair with coffee, and the resultant impact on coffee cup use.
"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 cafe", Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the MCS, said in a statement. "Legislation needs to set a date after which the continued production of unrecyclable coffee cups is banned by law".
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Starbucks said on Friday it would trial a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups for three months in about 20 London cafes.
Less than 1 percent of coffee cups are recycled in Britain because of the tightly bonded plastic liner, the difficulties of recycling packaging which has been in contact with food and drink and a lack of facilities, the lawmakers said.
A 5p charge on coffee cups was first proposed by the Liberal Democrats after it emerged a year ago that only one in 400 was being recycled.
Welsh ministers are considering asking for powers to tax the cups and other plastics that are hard to recycle.
Instead coffee chains perpetuated customer confusion that cups are widely recyclable when they are not. Often described as "recyclable", such cups are only very rarely actually recycled.
"Most people are shocked and dismayed to hear that coffee cups are not recycled".
The report accused coffee shops of "pulling the wool over the eyes" of consumers by suggesting all cups get recycled when fewer than 1 per cent do.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said it welcomed Friday's recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee.
This, the Committee said, will be achieved by a two-pronged approach - by making produces pay more for difficult-to-recycle packaging, and by improving labelling.
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