Should coffee customers be charged 25p for disposable cups?

Katrina Barker
January 5, 2018

Coffee shops should be made to charge 25 pence for the use of disposable cups say MPs in Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

The chief executive of one of the biggest waste and recycling operations in the United Kingdom has said that while taxes on takeaway coffee cups may provide a helpful nudge to consumers to abandon a throw-away culture, they won't bring about lasting change in isolation.

It's not just MPs making plans to tackle the issue of coffee cup waste.

"Disposable coffee cups may only represent a small fraction of the national annual tonnage of card and plastics produced which are lost from our recycling streams, but they leave the worst taste reminder of how on-the-go consumption can result in needless waste of our precious natural resources".

Spokesman Mike Turner said: 'The paper cups we manufacture in the United Kingdom are sustainably sourced, responsibly produced, recyclable and. are being recycled.

Just five retailers have taken up Cropper's cup recycling initiative and the firm has recycled just 10m cups following a target of 500 million a year.

Chains Pret A Manger, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero and Greggs alongside USA firm Starbucks are among the biggest coffee-sellers in Britain and have rapidly expanded in the last 10 years to meet increasing demand. The trial will begin next month and initially last for three months.

Time to crack out your reusable cups?

CIWM would like to see renewed efforts by coffee retailers to promote reusable cups to their customers, adding that and a government-backed voluntary agreement might be a sensible first step. "Legislation needs to set a date after which the continued production of unrecyclable coffee cups is banned by law". This is strong stuff, but in the meantime - with 2.5 billion coffee cups being dished out yearly - we need to make sure this happens sooner rather than later.

"Finally, we will continue to remind customers through our in-store marketing about the ongoing 25p cup discount and the benefits of going reusable".

A 5p charge on coffee cups was first proposed by the Liberal Democrats after it emerged a year ago that only one in 400 was being recycled.

"The whole point is to change behaviour and I'm glad the select committee has endorsed this Liberal Democrat campaign", he said. "It is only right that producers should bear more of the financial burden to help recycle their packaging, so my committee is calling for producer responsibility reform that rewards businesses that use sustainable packaging - and makes those that don't face higher charges".

What's wrong with regular coffee shop users taking their own cup if it avoids the charge?

In his Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond described plastic waste as a "scourge" and announced that he and Environment Secretary Michael Gove would investigate a single-use plastic tax to reduce waste.

The government now follows targets set by the EU Waste Directive for recycling paper and plastic, but none refers specifically to the mixed-material cups; moreover, there are no confirmed targets in place for once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

The Grocer has contacted Pret and Costa for comment.

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