MPs call for 25p 'latte levy' on disposable coffee cups

Coffee cup recycling

A 25 pence (34 cents) levy on disposable coffee cups should be introduced and all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023, according to the United Kingdom parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.

The Committee's report also recommends that all single-use coffee cups are recycled by 2023, and if this isn't in effect by then that there is an outright coffee cup ban. 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 UK's coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling". Half a million coffee cups are littered each day in the United Kingdom, the report said.

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". According to the report, "almost half of all coffees and hot drinks" are sold in disposable cups.

The committee said it was "disappointed" that only Costa and Starbucks provided written evidence for its investigation, and not other major retailers, including Caffe Nero and the supermarket chains Tesco, Morrisons and Pret a Manger. MPs say if cup recycling doesn't improve drastically by 2023, they'll be banned completely.

The MPs point out that while some coffee shops offer discounts for customers who bring their own cup, only 1 to 2% of coffee drinkers respond.

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

A target of all single-use cups to be recycled by 2023 is also recommended in the report, as well as an overhaul of the United Kingdom producer responsibility scheme, something discussed with regards to plastic bottles in the EAC's previous report.

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In a statement, Starbucks said: "We will investigate the impact of a 5p charge on a paper cup, coupled with prominent marketing of reusable cups, on customer behaviour". A spokesman said the money raised would be donated to a charity to run a study on how to change the public's behaviour and encourage the use of reusable cups.

U.S chain Starbucks said it will trial a 5 pence levy at up to 25 London branches in February for three months.

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

"By singling out disposable cups the committee is, by its own admission, looking for United Kingdom coffee retailers and their cup providers to underwrite the waste management of all packaging used on the go", he said.

On the back of the Audit Committee's report, Starbucks announced that it was to introduce a 5p charge on disposable cups in 20-25 of its London stores as part of a trial, with all proceeds to go to environmental consultancy Hubbub.

Foodservice Packaging Association executive director Martin Kersh fears a ban on disposable cups would cause some coffee shops to close.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said it welcomed Friday's recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee.

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