Each minute in the UK, 500 coffee cups are thrown away, that’s up to 2.5 billion of them in our waste stream every year. Britain’s coffee cravings are only increasing the amount of waste produced with much of the “disposable cups” being littered. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is now calling on the government to introduce a 25p “latte levy” tax on coffee cup in an effort to reduce pollution and decrease the amount of single-use plastics.
The problem we have found with coffee cups is that many of them are not recyclable. The use of plastic and paper in the production of the cups makes it harder to be recycled which leads to much of the 2.5 billion cups ending up in landfill. The UK only has three facilities that can split the paper and plastic components however, these facilities are not part of the general recycling system, leading to less than 1 in 400 cups being recycled, and that’s under 0.25%.
The “Latte levy” tax on coffee cups will hopefully bring enough change for consumers to start thinking about reusable options. Since the introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge in October 2015, the UK has seen a dramatic decrease in plastic bags from circulation. Approximately 6 billion plastic bags were removed from circulation, just 9 months into the policy. That’s a reduction of 80%.
The tax has helped change consumer trends with many shoppers bringing their own bags to avoid paying the 5p fee. The government saved up to £60 million a year through litter clean-up costs and hope to see a similar change once a 25p tax on coffee cups comes into place. Experts have estimated the levy could raise £438m and lead to a 30% reduction in the number of cups as more people carry their own. MP’s are calling for the money raised to be spent on improving “binfrastucture” including better recycling points around the UK.
Many of the coffee giants are already preparing for the latte levy with some even trialling a scheme in preparation. Global coffee chain, Starbucks will be trialling a 5p charge per cup at 20-25 of its central London stores. The chain will partner with charity Hubbub to launch the trial with all money generated from the charge, to be used for studies into behaviour change towards the uptake of reusable cups.
Hubbub previously created the square mile challenge where they focused on the coffee lovers who grab their morning fix every day on the way to work. The campaign was a part of collaboration between major coffee retailers, city of London and Network Rail at Liverpool Street station, creating up to 117 places where the public were able to recycle their coffee cups around the square mile. For the month the campaign ran, 4 million coffee cups were recycled.
West London Waste Authority is encouraged by the news that the government will be focusing more on single-use plastics and finding ways of encouraging the public & producers to think of alternatives. We’ve seen the dramatic change that occurred once the 5p tax took place and hope there are similar changes once single-use plastics are taxed.