MPs have called for a ‘latte levy’ on disposable coffee cups to combat poor recycling rates and help achieve landfill targets.

MPs have called for a 25p charge to be placed on disposable coffee cups. Over 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away every year, and only one in 400 being recycled, the so-called ‘latte levy’ will go far in the UK’s war against waste; contributing towards investment in recycling facilities.

There is increasing pressure on the government and large corporations to take steps to combat climate change. The UK government is seeking to meet EU Landfill Directive targets despite Brexit, with the target of achieving less than 10% of waste going to landfill by 2020. This not only means diverting waste from landfills, but ensuring this is done in the most environmentally friendly way possible; with priority being to encourage recycling and reuse. This is ever more important since China has banned the import of waste plastic from the UK.

While the materials used in disposable coffee cups are recyclable, recycling facilities need specialist equipment in order to separate these. As a result, there are currently only four sites in the UK – James Cropper PLC, ACE UK and Veolia. The dilemma is not only the few facilities that can recycle disposable cups, but also the general public belief that disposable cups are recyclable, resulting in these being thrown into generalised recycling bins. This results in more time and money being spent in order to separate these out, and much of this will then end up in the landfill.

Though many corporations have adopted measures to encourage consumers to reduce waste, such as Pret A Manger offering a 25p discount when using a reusable coffee cup and Starbucks disposable cup specific recycling bins trials in London branches (stating that up to 90% of cups from the chain get recycled) this needs to become more widespread to have a significant impact. Instead, consumers will be more inclined to invest in a reusable coffee cup if there is a charge placed on using a disposable one. Starbucks is offering reusable cups for as low as £1, which a consumer would make back in four drinks, as opposed to consistently paying 25p for every disposable cup used.

Overall, we will see a similar effect to the plastic bag tax, which has seen an 83% decline in the use of plastic bags from the seven main retailers (Asda, Marks and Spencer’s, Sainsbury, Tesco, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Morrisons) and experience a significant reduction in disposable cups being thrown away.

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