MPs call for 25p tax on disposable coffee cups

A Veolia paper cup recycling point

"We need coffee cup producers, distributors and governments to take urgent action to rectify this - and if they can't achieve this by 2023, then they should be banned". Last night Starbucks became the first firm to break ranks, saying it would pilot a 5p charge in selected stores from next month.

When environmentalists first mooted the idea of a levy on plastic bags, plenty of eyes rolled.

It warned that voluntary approaches to combating the issue have failed, and government action is needed to deal with the "avoidable problem".

Foster added that it would also encourage cafes to use "traditional cups and mugs rather than hand out single-use cups".

Waste cups are "an unsightly and damaging blight on the environment", said the Environmental Audit Committee in a new report published Friday.

What's wrong with regular coffee shop users taking their own cup if it avoids the charge? "Legislation needs to set a date after which the continued production of unrecyclable coffee cups is banned by law".

"The trial will investigate the impact of a 5p charge on a paper cup, coupled with the prominent marketing of reusable cups, on customer behaviour".

This week, Pret doubled the discount offered to customers who bring in a reusable coffee cup from 25p to 50p.

Only two of the major coffee chains gave evidence to MPs inquiry, while others refused to engage.

The vast majority end up in landfill or incineration, with 500,000 a day dropped as litter.

The government now follows targets set by the EU Waste Directive for recycling paper and plastic, but none refers specifically to the mixed-material cups; moreover, there are no confirmed targets in place for once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

"I am an expert in making fantastic coffee, but they (the cup manufacturers) are the ones with the knowledge and resources to be able to change".

The second full report from the EAC's inquiry into the effects of disposable drinks packaging, released today (5 January), calls for the government to introduce legislation similar to the plastic bag charge in order to bring the UK's use of disposable coffee cups under control.

In a statement Friday, the committee said that revenue from the levy should be invested in reprocessing facilities and recycling "binfrastructure".

It also pointed out that now cup producers only contribute around 10 per cent of the cost of disposing of the coffee cups "leaving the taxpayer to foot the rest". Fewer than 1 in 400 cups is recycled, largely because their plastic linings make recycling trickier.

"The UK's coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick-start a revolution in recycling".

The tax would reduce in line with improved recycling rates for coffee cups. We will carefully consider the committee's recommendations and respond shortly'.

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. Coffee shops have been sending out mixed messages for years, emphasising that their cups are "recyclable" and staying silent on the fact they are not actually recycled.

Numerous cups are printed with the three-arrow triangular "Mobius loop" symbol that eight out of ten people think means they can be put in the recycling.

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