Two of the UK’s most prominent waste management companies and the Paper Cup Alliance have responded to the call from the Environmental Audit Committee today for a 25p “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups.
Starbucks has also today announced a trial in London to introduce a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups.
The Environment Audit Committee released its report, ‘Disposable packaging: Coffee Cups’, earlier today which called on the government to both introduce a 25p tax and aim to recycle 100% of coffee cups by 2023 (see letsrecycle.com story).
If this target is not met, the Audit Committee called on the government to completely ban disposable coffee cups.
And, the committee also stated that the tax should go towards improving recycling and reprocessing facilities.
Veolia Environmental Services responded to the report saying that it is already leading a solution to collect, recycle and re-use Britain’s coffee cups, which has seen 10 million of them recycled in the last eight months.
Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president at Veolia UK & Ireland disagreed with the idea of how the levy should be spent, commenting that the funds raised should be used to fund the collection of cups instead.
“Once coffee cups are separately collected they have a value and can be made into new products. Equally, the levy should be discounted when coffee shops do actually recycle – otherwise it presents no incentive and instead amounts to a general taxation.”
She added that Veolia wants to see “incentives for manufacturers which use recycled materials to give products a second life”, before adding that more needs to be done and the solution lies in “collaboration across the entire supply chain”.
“Increased investment in sustainable product design, greater use of recyclable materials and better capture of materials at the end of their life are all needed in order to help eradicate the bitter taste litter leaves behind in our streets, hedgerows, rivers and oceans.”David Palmer-Jones
David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery, remarked that while the tax may be helpful, it has to be part of a wider reform that “shifts the burden of responsibility for all forms of packaging content, recyclability and ultimately their collection, back to the producer.”
Mr Palmer-Jones said: “For any so-called latte tax to be more than just a light and frothy foam nod to reform, we need to wake up and smell the real coffee needed for a lasting brew.
“Increased investment in sustainable product design, greater use of recyclable materials and better capture of materials at the end of their life are all needed in order to help eradicate the bitter taste litter leaves behind in our streets, hedgerows, rivers and oceans.”
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.
The consultancy, which is a charity, will use the funds to run a behaviour change study, helping Starbucks to understand how the public can be encouraged to choose reusable drink containers.
The American coffee chain explained that it will share its findings with any interested parties before taking a view on next steps. The trial will begin next month and initially last for three months.
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. At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that drink-in customers are always offered a ceramic cup, thus cutting paper use even further.”
The Paper Cup Alliance welcomed the recognition of industry efforts to increase recycling but cautioned against measures that hurt consumers and harm the high street economy.
“Taxing the morning coffee run will not address the issue of litter but it will hurt consumers and impact already struggling high streets. No packaging type is totally recycled and a ban on paper cups would hit manufacturing jobs and damage a growing service industry which makes a major contribution to UK Plc,” said Mike Turner, Speaking on behalf of the Alliance.
He added that paper cups are the “most sustainable and safe solution” for drinks on the go.
In October last year, organisations from across the paper cup supply chain signed an agreement with the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK) to accelerate UK recycling of PE lined paper cups (see letsrecycle.com story).
The cross-industry collaboration aims included to work towards delivering a long-term, nationwide paper cup recycling solution which builds on the recycling activities achieved so far by the paper cup industry.
The programme included a move this month to make all ACE UK bring banks accept paper cups for recycling, delivering an additional 415 recycling points located in 105 local authorities across the UK.
ACE also stated that it is working with local authorities and waste management organisations to include disposable cups in kerbside collections.