The Environmental Audit Committee has recommended a 25p tax should be placed on disposable coffee cups and for all coffee cups to be recycled by 2023 following research that the UK throws away 2.5bn cups.
Citing the success of the 5p plastic carrier bag charge, MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee suggested that the public respond better to a stick rather than a carrot – many coffee shops have in the past year introduced a 25p discount to customers who use a reusable cup.
Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee, said: “The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet five and a half times. Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered. 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.”
Funds raised through the levy would go towards improving the UK’s recycling and reprocessing facilities.
Other recommendations in the committee’s report include making producers pay more for packaging that is difficult to recycle and improve labelling to educate consumers about how best to dispose of their cup. It also states that if the target to recycle coffee cups by 2023 is not reached, the government should ban disposable coffee cups.
The issue surrounding disposable coffee cups – that the plastic inner lining makes many recycling plants unable to recycle them or it is too costly to do so – was highlighted last year in a documentary by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
However, the recommendations by the committee have not been well received by the packaging industry. Martin Kersh, executive director of the FPA, said that the recycling of disposable cups will increase quickly as the coffee cup industry and customers have introduced a large-scale recycling facility.
“The key to increased recycling therefore is increased collection and this requires an on-the-go waste management infrastructure that addresses all packaging used in this way and not just cups,” he said.
Kersh claims that by singling out paper cups, the committee is looking for UK coffee retailers and cup providers to underwrite the waste management of all packaging used on the go and estimates that a 25p charge is disproportionate.