Charge for coffee cups will help tackle packaging waste, say MPs

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Throwaway coffee cups should face a 25p "latte levy", MPs said last night.

"The government should set a target for all disposable coffee cups to be recycled by 2023".

"The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year - that's enough to circle the planet five and a half times", said committee's chair, Mary Creagh MP.

The Committee added that the money raised will be used to improve the UK's recycling "binfrastructure" and reprocessing facilities.

"We heard evidence that consumers are more responsive to a charge than a discount and that a charge on disposable cups could reduce use by up to 30 percent."
But, the problem is: the plastic lining "can't be removed by most recycling facilities". As a result just six million - 0.25% - are recycled.

The government now follows targets set by the EU Waste Directive for recycling paper and plastic, but none refers specifically to the mixed-material cups; moreover, there are no confirmed targets in place for once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The trial will take place across 20 to 25 London stores and marks the first time a major coffee retailer has charged customers extra for a cup.

Less than 1 per cent of coffee cups are recycled in Britain because of the tightly bonded plastic liner, the difficulties of recycling packaging which has been in contact with food and drink and a lack of facilities, the lawmakers said. If not achieved, the report states, an outright ban on coffee cups should be introduced.

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Some coffee chains, including Costa and Pret a Manger, have introduced discounts for customers who bring their own cups to be filled.

"Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will re-use become the norm". MCS's Beachwatch litter-surveying campaign has seen a reported 93 per cent increase in coffee cups found on United Kingdom beaches over the past five years.

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.

The last decade has brought about an explosion in the United Kingdom café culture, as the traditional English cup of tea has succumbed to its roasted rival, with the milky latte taking top spot as the nation's most popular takeaway hot drink, served in paper cups laminated with a plastic sheeting, which waterproof the containers and stop hot drinks leaking onto customer's hands.

Only one per cent of the cups sold by cafés "to-go" are recycled, most are sent for landfill or incineration.

In addition, the committee also has suggested that the government should set up a producer responsibility compliance fee structure that rewards packaging design which facilitates recycling and puts a fine on packaging, which is hard to recycle.

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