UK MPs call for 'latte levy' on disposable coffee cups

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By Euronews
A disposable coffee cup is seen in a refuse bag in London, UK
A disposable coffee cup is seen in a refuse bag in London, UK   -   Copyright  REUTERS

British Members of Parliament are calling for a "latte levy" on disposable cups, in a bid to reduce the growing amount of paper packaging waste they contribute to.

A report by the UK parliament's Environmental Audit Committee says that the 25 pence (28 euro cent) tax would go toward improving reprocessing facilities and “binfrastructure” to ensure that all disposable cups are recycled.

The proposal mimics a plastic bag levy introduced in England in 2015, which has seen the number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers plummet by more than 85 percent.

The committee said that 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away in the UK each year.

Disposable cups contain a plastic lining that makes them difficult and expensive to recycle. The UK has just three facilities capable of recycling disposable cups.

MPs say that the businesses that use them cover only a fraction of the cost of reprocessing the waste.

"Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered," said committee chairwoman Mary Creagh, MP. "Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands".

"The UK's coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling," she added.

A spokesperson for the British Coffee Association said the proposed levy would place an unfair cost on coffee drinking consumers alone—despite the fact that other types of packaging are responsible for far more paper waste. ** **

'Polluter Pays'

The committee said it took account of the "Polluter Pays" principle that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it.

Many major UK coffee shops give discounts of up to 50 pence (56 euro cents) to customers who bring their own cups. Yet only 1-2% of customers take advantage of the offer.

Following publication of the report, global coffee giant Starbucks says it will try out a 5 pence (5.6 euro cents) cup charge in some of its London coffee shops.

Starbucks said it would also continue the 25 pence (28 euro cent) discount it already offers to customers who bring their own cup.

The parliamentary committee's final report says that throw-away cups should be banned by 2023 if they aren't all being recycled by that time.