The Environmental Audit Committee today called on the government to introduce a UK-wide 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups and set targets to recycle 100% of them by 2023.
In a report – ‘Disposable packaging: Coffee Cups’ – the committee said the funds raised should go towards improving recycling and reprocessing facilities.
The report also called on the government to ban the use of disposable coffee cups if the 100% target is not met. It was released earlier today (January 5th) by the Environmental Audit Committee, which is chaired by Labour shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh.
“Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and the government has sat on its hands,” Mrs Creagh stated.
She added: “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.”
There were further calls in the report for clearer consumer messaging, as there is currently a “significant public belief that disposable coffee cups are widely recycled”, despite only 1 in 400 actually being so.
And, the committee wants further producer responsibility by introducing a compliance fee structure that reduces the cost of recyclable and sustainable cups, and raises costs on cups that are difficult and costly to recycle.
The major coffee retailers in the UK were approached for written evidence, but the committee received a response from only Starbucks and Costa. The other coffee retailers which were named for not giving evidence were Café Nero, Tesco, Morrisons and Pret A Manger. “Their silence speaks volumes,” the report read.
In 2011, a Which? report found that 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year in the UK. However, as the coffee shop industry has grown considerably since then, “this figure is likely to be an underestimate of usage now.”
The committee pointed to the 5p carrier bag charge which was introduced in 2015 and subsequently reduced plastic bag usage by 83% in its first year. Reports suggest that the majority of consumers now support these types of charges as opposed to discounts.
Some coffee shops do offer a discount for those using reusable coffee cups, however the committee called for the government to introduce a compulsory ‘latte levy’ instead.
“In much the same way that people now often carry a bag-for-life to avoid the 5p bag charge, we heard that there would be times when people could plan ahead and bring a reusable cup, for instance, on the way to work or throughout the working day when coffee purchasing is more habitual than impulsive,” the 37 page document added.
Mrs Creagh commented that the producers of disposable coffee cups have been adding to the consumer confusion over the recycling of coffee cups by saying that their cups can be recycled,
Responding to the report, Conservative Cllr Martin Tett, Local Government Association environment spokesman, echoed the views of the report, saying efforts by councils to increase recycling levels is often undermined by coffee cups. However, he stated the costs should not be passed on to the consumer.
“Coffee cups are made of paper coated with a plastic layer which can contaminate other materials put out for recycling. This creates an extra cost for councils and can reduce overall recycling. Councils have made significant progress in increasing levels of recycling, but this is frequently undermined by the scourge of disposable coffee cups, which have become a huge problem.
“However we are clear that this is something that must be addressed by industry, and that any associated costs should not be passed on to consumers.”
The coffee cup report comes less than three weeks after calls for the introduction of a UK-wide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and a requirement to provide free drinking water in public premises in order to clamp down on plastic bottle wastage. (See letsrecycle.com story).
‘Plastic Bottles – Turning Back the Plastic Tide’ was released on December 22, and also called for a timescale for publishing a more accurate assessment of the current levels, properties and impacts of marine litter and the steps it will take to protect oceans from plastic pollution.