The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has urged the Government to launch a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups and for all the cups to be recycled by 2023.
According to EAC, 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away annually in the UK, with almost none being recycled and half a million per day being littered.
EAC chair Mary Creagh MP said: “Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and Government has sat on its hands. The UK’s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling. We’re calling for action to reduce the number of single use cups, promote reusable cups over disposable cups and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023.”
The Committee’s suggestions to the Government include:
An introduction of a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups, with the money raised going towards improving the UK’s recycling ‘bin infrastructure’ and reprocessing facilities
Setting a target for all disposable coffee cups to be recycled by 2023, and if this target is not met, the Government should ban the cups
Make producers pay more for packaging which is difficult to recycle
Improve labelling to educate consumers about how to dispose of their cup.
While some coffee shops provide discounts for customers who bring their own cup, such as Pret A Manger, the uptake of these offers is low at only 1-2% of coffee purchases, say EAC.
From this, the Committee found that consumers are more likely to respond to a charge than a discount, as shown by the plastic bag charge, which reduced plastic bag use by over 83%.
Although disposable coffee cups are recyclable, EAC say that most are not recycled, due to the cups’ bonded plastic liner and the difficulties of recycling packaging that has been contaminated by food or drink.
The Committee has asked the Government to require coffee cups from cafes without in-store recycling systems to be printing with “not widely recycled” labels to raise awareness of the issue.
Mary Creagh MP added: “Most people are shocked and dismayed to hear that coffee cups are not 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. We’re calling for clearer labelling so people can make informed choices about their use and disposal of coffee cups.”