Industry responds to coffee cups report

Randolph Lopez
January 5, 2018

Half a million cups are thrown away every day, with nearly all of them incinerated, exported or landfilled.

Government sources said ministers were "open" to the idea of a coffee cup charge if evidence shows it would change behaviour. Britain's biggest coffee chain, Costa, gives a 25p discount.

"Their silence speaks volumes", MPs said.

Waste cups are "an unsightly and damaging blight on the environment", said the Environmental Audit Committee in a new report published Friday.

If approved, the 25p levy will be introduced on all disposable coffee cups sold in cafés, restaurants and coffee shops.

Labelling - make sure that customers know that cups are "not widely recycled" and how best to dispose of their cup (this will often mean taking it back to the coffee shop). These were "well meaning", MPs said, but not enough to tackle the scale of cup waste in the UK. Coffey did state that the government's upcoming Waste and Resources Strategy would contain a "specific ambition" relating to the recycling of coffee cups, something the EAC noted had been "historically weak".

Responding to this announcement, Dr Laura Foster of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said: "We totally agree with the committee that if 100 per cent recycling of coffee cups isn't reached by 2023, then there should be an outright ban on providing them - and that date should be set in stone".

The government plans to produce a new plastics policy later in the year.

The committee's report states: 'There is no excuse for the reluctance we have seen from Government and industry to address coffee cup waste. 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.

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Cropper takes cups collected by coffee retailers instore recycling bins, removes the plastic and turns them into luxury paper and packaging products. If a charge helped to pay for infrastructure around this, he added, it could increase the volume of cups recycled.

The MPs say the charge would lead to 750 million fewer disposable cups being discarded as litter, incinerated or sent to landfill, and would generate £438m.

Starbucks said on Friday it would trial a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups for three months in about 20 London cafes.

"We will begin the trial in February and initially it will last for three months", the firm said, adding that it continued to offer a 25p discount to customers who brought their own reusable cups.

The cups are technically recyclable, but because they mix paper and plastic components there are only three recycling facilities in the United Kingdom that can deal with them.

Now the Environmental Audit Committee's plan to bring in a tax on disposable coffee cups is in the proposal stage.

Numerous cups are printed with the three-arrow triangular "Mobius loop" symbol that eight out of ten people think means they can be put in the recycling.

"Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will re-use become the norm".

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