The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has vowed to “carefully consider” calls from the Environment Audit Committee to introduce a 25p ‘latte levy’ on disposable coffee cups.
But, signalling that it may favour a voluntary producer responsibility approach to coffee cups, the Department has spoken of being encouraged by industry’s work on recycling the cups.
In a report this morning (5 January) Chair of the Committee, Labour shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh, had accused the government of “sitting on its hands” on the issue. She also called on the government to take “decisive action”.
The report, which was released earlier today, made frequent references to the 2015 5p plastic carrier bag charge, which reduced usage by over 80% in its first year. It claimed that research has showed people would be in favour of a similar move for coffee cups.
A Defra spokesperson said: “As this report recognises, we are already taking action towards our goal of a ‘zero waste economy’ and working closely with industry and organisations such as WRAP, we have made great progress in boosting recycling rates and making more products recyclable.”
The spokesperson then added that Defra is “encouraged” by industry action to increase the recycling of paper cups, and made reference to some retailers which already offer customers discounts for bringing a reusable cup.
Resource minister Thérèse Coffey gave evidence to the committee in October. Topics included the work being done to make recycling easier as well as coffee cups and plastic bottles.
She said at the time: “One of the things which I am expecting the group to understand is would a levy of 5p or 10p make a shift in behaviour. I am open to it.”
Several other groups such as the Resource Association and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health welcomed the Audit Committee’s publication.
The Resource Association commented that sorting and recycling of ‘on the go’ disposable products has not kept pace with society’s demand for convenience food and drink.
This was echoed by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), which said it was “delighted” the committee added its support for a 25p tax.
Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at CIEH commented that the CIEH had been calling on the government to adopt a tax on disposable coffee cups since last summer.
He said: “Admirable efforts have been made by coffee chains to promote discounts for returning previous cups. However, it is simply not enough for the Government to hand responsibility for dealing with this issue to the industry.
“We want to see the recommendations in the report adopted in full by the government and enshrined in legislation.”
Vegware also welcomed the “much-needed” focus on paper cup recycling, but commented that instead of charging consumers, there should be reforms to ensure the industry is to pay.
However, not everyone agreed. The Foodservice Packaging Association stated that any ban on cups could further threaten UK’s high streets, and asked why consumers should be charged when industry is willing to provide funding for recycling.