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'Warm words, no action': Government rejects 25p 'latte levy' proposal

09 March 2018

The Environmental Audi Committee's (EAC's) key recommendation was the introduction of a 25p levy on the use of disposable coffee cups, to reduce their use and help to fund recycling measures.

"Major coffee cup manufacturers and retailers are already captured by the packaging waste regulations that require them to pay towards the recycling of the products they place on the market", the response said.

The key recommendation to stem from the coffee cup report was for a 25 pence charge to be added to all drinks sold in a single-use cup, in order to encourage the uptake of reusable alternatives and curb the 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste produced every year - of which only 0.25 per cent are now recycled, due both to a lack of on-the-go recycling infrastructure and to their mixed paper and plastic composition.

Failing to commit to a disposable cup charge, the government's response to the report focused instead on extending the voluntary commitments from the coffee industry.

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The government cited the role of coffee chains in implementing reusable cup discounts and recycling infrastructure, and said it would like to see this extended to all businesses selling disposable cups.

'Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis.

She added that the Government's response "shows that despite warm words they plan no real action".

Mary Creagh, chair of the committee, said: "Evidence to our inquiry demonstrated that charges work better than discounts for reducing the use of non-recyclable materials - as was the case with the plastic bag charge".

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"It is paramount to understand that current disposable cups are recyclable, the problem is that the United Kingdom now lacks the necessary infrastructure to be able to cope with the volumes that are used". Although the recycling targets for paper and plastic are 69.5% and 51% respectively, just 0.25% of disposable coffee cups are recycled.

"I think [the Government] has rejected these proposals because they're concerned about what people's reactions are", Ms Foster said.

Targets should be "challenging, but realistic", the Government's response claimed.

A 25p charge on single-use cups, modelled on the 5p tax on plastic bags, was chief among recommendations to drive up recycling and reduce waste made by a cross-party commons committee in January. The Government rejected the Committee's recommendation and welcomed the Paper Cup Manifesto written by industry. "One hundred per cent recycling from collection is unobtainable as there will always be contamination in the waste stream - either from the beverage itself, or from other items disposed of alongside the cup".

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During an evidence session, the Environment Minister Dr Therese Coffey MP told the Committee that the upcoming Resources and Waste ambition would include a "specific ambition" for coffee cup recycling. "So these types of incentives can change consumer behaviour and this is something we could consider amongst other policy options". He gave a reusable coffee cup to each of his colleagues at a cabinet meeting last month.

'Warm words, no action': Government rejects 25p 'latte levy' proposal