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Michael Gove’s green credentials have been massively undermined by his department’s spurning of the latte levy

The 25p 'latte levy' on polluting disposable coffee cups is not quite dead. But it ain’t happening on Gove’s watch


James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Friday 09 March 2018 14:08 GMT
Latte Levy on disposable plastic lined coffee cups looks doomed for now
Latte Levy on disposable plastic lined coffee cups looks doomed for now (PA)

The 25p “latte levy” on polluting disposable coffee cups is not quite dead.

But the Government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s suggestion of it makes it look like the forgotten about guy who slowly drifted away from the land of dead in Pixar’s tear-jerking Oscar winner Coco.

“As part of the Autumn Budget statement in November 2017, we announced a call for evidence which will examine whether the tax system or charges can be used to reduce single-use plastic waste. This will be published soon and will consider the impacts of disposable coffee cups, among other single-use plastic items.”

This paragraph, contained in the response to the Committee’s report on the subject from Michael Gove’s Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), could be said to provide some measure of hope to proponents of the levy, which has found favour with MPs, among others, because of the similarities it bears to the wildly successful plastic bag tax that cut use by 90 per cent.

But the obfuscation and vague talk of “working with” coffee chains that would prefer to sit on their hands and let the profits roll in from charging more than a fiver for a pumpkin double-spiced choca mocha thingy, as opposed to taking meaningful action to cut the waste they generate, tells it’s own story. Discounts to those who opt for a reusable cup, which Defra quite likes and the industry is not averse to, have been proven not to work.

The levy probably would, but it ain’t happening on “Green Brexit“ Gove’s watch and it probably won’t happen until the electorate sends him back to pen columns for his BFF Rupert Murdoch.

Small wonder that the Committee railed against the Government, accusing it of refusing “to take any decisive action on the complex issue of coffee cups”.

One of the reasons stated by the Conservatives for the austerity policy aimed at eliminating the UK’s budget deficit they embarked upon was that the national debt serves as a tax on future generations.

In that light, how would Mr Gove characterise a mountain of toxic plastic-lined coffee cups festering in the middle of a landfill dump? An exciting place for kids to play and perhaps pick up the odd useful item for sale after he and his Brexit pals have cratered the economy? Something Damien Hirst could create “art” from?

As committee chair Mary Creagh stated: “The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas.”

She and her cross-party colleagues came up with a series of practical, common sense, ideas to address this problem, one of the most pressing of the age. Mr Grove and his colleagues have chosen to treat them like so much lavatory paper.

There is one, and only one, part of Britain that would benefit from less recycling: Mr Gove and his department. He and it deserve to be written off and replaced with people who actually care about the country they, and their children, have to live in.

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