UK Lawmakers Propose 'Latte Levy' To Cut Coffee Cup Waste

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Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands.

When environmentalists first mooted the idea of a levy on plastic bags, plenty of eyes rolled.

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

The world loves going to coffee shops and gulping down large amounts of caffeinated beverages, but MPs aren't too impressed about the number of cups they produce.

Starbucks has pledged it will roll out a three-month trial of a 5p charge on disposable cups in up to 25 London stores. It was the EAC's recommendations of banning microbeads that bolstered government into doing so (the full ban comes into effect this coming July).

However, the London trial, which will run for three months starting in February, is an important first step by the USA chain - and the proposals are a victory for the Daily Mail's Curb the Cups campaign.

"The trial will investigate the impact of a 5p charge on a paper cup, coupled with the prominent marketing of reusable cups, on customer behaviour".

Naturally the proposal is being opposed by the people who make the paper cups. Britain's biggest coffee chain, Costa, gives a 25p discount.

It recommended that a 25p tax should be applied to single use cups to encourage consumers to use alternatives.

Disposable cups can not be recycled by the normal systems because they are made from cardboard with a tightly bonded polyethylene liner, which is hard to remove, and means they are not accepted by paper mills.

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The vast majority end up in landfill or incineration, with 500,000 a day dropped as litter. Neil Whittall, its Head of Coffee, said: "Whilst paper cups are fully recyclable, the industry recognises that many are not being recycled because of a lack of collection facilities".

If all disposable coffee cups are recycled by 2023, that will require a lot of infrastructure - there are only three recycling facilities in the United Kingdom that can split the paper from the plastic for recycling at present (which is why less than 1% of cups are recycled).

Whether coffee shops want to adopt a "latte levy" is a different question.

It also pointed out that now cup producers only contribute around 10 per cent of the cost of disposing of the coffee cups "leaving the taxpayer to foot the rest".

Cropper takes cups collected by coffee retailers instore recycling bins, removes the plastic and turns them into luxury paper and packaging products.

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).

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

MPs said: "It is unacceptable that coffee sellers are perpetuating customer confusion though their use of recycling labels and emphasis on the recyclability of coffee cups, despite the shockingly low recycling rate", the report said.

In acknowledgment of these complexities, the report states that revenue from the 25 pence charge should also go towards creating more recycling points for coffee cups (and all food packaging), as well as to increase public communications about recycling on-the-go.

However, due to their plastic lining, customers who put them in the recyclable waste effectively contaminate it.