UK mulls charge on disposable coffee cups to cut waste / Report calls for all cups to be recycled by 2023
The UK government is considering a plan to introduce a 25 pence (25p) levy on disposable coffee cups as it moves to cut waste. A report by the House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee, published in December 2017, found that 2.5 bn takeaway coffee cups are used and thrown away each year in the UK – enough to stretch around the world five-and-a-half times. It said a charge could cut use by up to 30% and the revenue raised should be invested in reprocessing facilities and “binfrastructure” to ensure that any remaining disposable cups are recycled.

The UK produces 30,000 t of coffee cup waste each year but only one in 400 cups – less than 0.25% – is recycled, with around 500,000 cups littered every day. Disposable cups cannot be recycled in the usual systems because they are lined with plastic, which most recycling facilities are unable to remove. In addition, the paper part of the cup is usually contaminated by the contents.

Some cup manufacturers and coffee shops have voluntarily committed to recycle the cups but the report said the pledges were “inconsistent and lack quantifiable targets and structure.” Certain large coffee retailers already offer a 25p discount if customers bring their own cups but uptake is very low at around 1%.

As a result, the committee has recommended that all single-use coffee cups should be recycled by 2023. If this target is not achieved, then the government should bring in a ban.

The move follows comments by UK chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond in last year’s autumn budget when he said he would investigate how the country’s tax system and charges on single-use plastic items could reduce waste – see of 23.11.2017.

House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee report on “Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups” (December 2017) as a PDF file
12.01.2018 [238768-0]
Published on 12.01.2018

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