A group of MPs have called for 25p to be added to the price of a coffee served in a disposable paper cup – a so-called 'latte levy' – to tackle the almost 2.5 billion cups thrown away in the UK every year.
The Environmental Audit Committee – which works on sustainable development and green issues within the government – wants to use the money to improve recycling rates, with a view to recycling all disposable cups by 2023. If the targets are not met, these cups could be banned completely.
"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," says Environmental Audit Committee Chair, 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. We're calling for action to reduce the number of single use cups, promote reusable cups over disposable cups and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023."
The EAC adds that there is an issue with labelling, as coffee shops' cups are technically recyclable – leading many consumers to believe their cups are being dealt with properly – but owing to their waterproof plastic liner only one per cent of these cups are, in reality, recycled.
"Most people are shocked and dismayed to hear that coffee cups are not recycled," says Mary Creagh. "Coffee shops have been sending out mixed messages for years, emphasising that their cups are 'recyclable' and staying silent on the fact they are not actually recycled. We're calling for clearer labelling so people can make informed choices about their use and disposal of coffee cups."
The 'latte levy' plan would also shift the responsibility for paying for recycling to packaging producers rather than spreading the cost across general taxpayers, as at present.
Last month, the same committee called for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles to reduce waste, while this week Pret announced its customers would receive a 50p discount on hot drinks if they bring in their own reusable mug.