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Latte Levy: Government's failure to back 25p charge on throwaway coffee cups condemned by MPs and charities

'Despite warm words they plan no real action'

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 09 March 2018 13:46 GMT
Latte levy: The plastic problem inside your coffee cup

Charities and MPs have condemned the Government’s failure to back a proposed 25p “latte levy” on throwaway coffee cups.

An influential Commons committee hit out at big-name coffee chains for failing to act on the problem in January.

At the same time it said the Government had “sat on its hands” as the country threw away 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups each year.

But ministers rejected the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendations to introduce the 25p charge and to consider a total ban by 2023.

Instead they said it was better for shops to offer voluntary discounts to customers bringing their own cups.

Committee chair Mary Creagh said the response was “not good enough” and accused the Government of putting the problem of “the UK’s coffee cup waste mountain in the ‘too difficult’ box”.

She said: “Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The Government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action."

Responding to the committee’s recommendations, the Government said an additional charge for throwaway cups was only “something we could consider amongst other policy options”.

It praised coffee chains which offer discounts to customers who bring their own cups and said it would like others to do the same.

Do coffee shops offer ceramic cups by default rather than plastic cups? Our 'Cut the cup waste' campaign investigates

Elena Polisano, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, accused the Government of sending a “worrying signal” over its approach to plastic pollution.

"Given the strength of public demand for action on plastic packaging, it is disappointing that Michael Gove didn't use this opportunity to indicate clear support for a levy on disposable coffee cups,” she said.

“He needs to listen to MPs, retailers, and the majority of the public, who are asking him to act decisively on reducing throwaway plastic packaging.”

(The Independent (The Independent)

The Independent’s own Cut the Cup Waste campaign is seeking solutions to the disposable coffee cup problem.

It has called for coffee shop companies to introduce the 25p “latte levy” as well as other measures to tackle the problem.

An exclusive poll for The Independent found that the majority of the British public would back a surcharge.

Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said it was time coffee chains paid more to deal with the environmental damage their products cause.

Currently taxpayers foot the bill for processing 90 per cent of packaging waste, while only one in 400 disposable cups are recycled.

“I think [the Government] has rejected these proposals because they’re concerned about what people’s reactions are,” Ms Foster said. “And I think what we’ve seen from the 5p charge for carrier bags is that the public is supportive.”

But Chris Stemman, executive director of the British Coffee Association, said the rejection of the 25p charge was a “welcome” decision.

“It fundamentally wouldn’t solve the problem as a long term sustainability one. Disposable paper cups are recyclable,” he said. “The problem is that the UK lacks the necessary infrastructure to recycle them in the volumes that are required.

"Therefore, expanding the existing infrastructure to recycle disposable paper cups is the priority, as it will create a circular economy.”

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