Call for 'latte levy' to cut disposable coffee cup waste

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In Gosport, coffee cup firm Huhtamaki - which manufactures coffee cups for Starbucks - is aiming to introduce disposal points for coffee cups in the town, working alongside Gosport Borough Council.

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. "Disposable coffee cups are an avoidable waste problem and if the United Kingdom can not be confident of their future sustainability, the Government should ban them".

The last decade has brought about an explosion in the United Kingdom café culture, as the traditional English cup of tea has succumbed to its roasted rival, with the milky latte taking top spot as the nation's most popular takeaway hot drink, served in paper cups laminated with a plastic sheeting, which waterproof the containers and stop hot drinks leaking onto customer's hands.

Less than 1% of coffee cups are recycled in Britain because of the tightly-bonded plastic liner, the difficulties of recycling packaging which has been in contact with food and drink and a lack of facilities, the lawmakers said. Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said the so-called "latte levy" being charged on top of the price of a drink would pay to improve the UK's reprocessing facilities and "binfastructure" and ultimately change people's behaviour.

Thanks to the UK's ever-growing coffee shop culture, and the general trend for using disposable cups given at the counter rather than reusable ones brought in from home, the country is throwing away a huge 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year, according to a study by Cardiff University. "Nearly none are recycled and half a million a day are littered".

Takeaway beverage chains including Caffè Nero, Costa Coffee, McDonald's, Pret A Manger and Starbucks have signed up to a scheme to collect and recycle more of the current types of cup.

A more focused target has thus been recommended: all single-use coffee cups placed in recycling bins to be recycled by 2023.

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A charge on disposable coffee cups is to be imposed in Britain to address the problem that only a tiny proportion is recycled. "Legislation needs to set a date after which the continued production of unrecyclable coffee cups is banned by law".

The money raised from those who refused would be used to increase the number of recycling plants able to handle plastic-lined take-away cups.

This was welcomed by the committee, which heard evidence during the inquiry that consumer confusion around coffee cups is contributing to poor recycling rates. The trial will begin next month and initially last for three months.

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

These were "well meaning", MPs said, but not enough to tackle the scale of cup waste in the UK.

Only one per cent of the cups sold by cafés "to-go" are recycled, most are sent for landfill or incineration. "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".

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