Latte levy alone won’t work to cut disposable coffee cups, says UK recycling chief

Businesses must shoulder the burden for recycling their own packaging, according to Suez’s UK boss

Josie Co
Business Editor
Friday 05 January 2018 12:04
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Latte levy: The plastic problem inside your coffee cup

The chief executive of one of the biggest waste and recycling operations in the UK has said that while taxes on takeaway coffee cups may provide a helpful nudge to consumers to abandon a throwaway culture, they won’t bring about lasting change in isolation.

David Palmer-Jones, the boss of French company Suez’s recycling arm in Britain, said that to really move the needle on the issue, proposals like the one unveiled by MPs on Friday need to form part of a “wider, joined-up reform that shifts the burden of responsibility for all forms of packaging content, recyclability and ultimately their collection, back to the producer.”

Mr Palmer-Jones added that although disposable coffee cups only represent a small fraction of the national annual tonnage of card and plastics waste, “they leave the worst taste-reminder of how on-the-go consumption can result in needless waste of our precious natural resources”.

He said that for the so-called “latte levy” to be more than just “a light and frothy foam nod to reform” the UK needs to invest more in sustainable product design, use more recyclable materials and be better at “capturing” materials at the end of their life.

Suez recycling and recovery in the UK serves around 12 million people and handles around 10 million tonnes of waste each year.

Earlier this week, Pret A Manger announced that it will start offering customer a 50p discount on the price of hot drinks if they bring their own cup.

On Friday Starbucks said that it would start a three-month trial of a 5p paper cup charge in up to 25 London shops from next month.

Back in 2016 it trialled applying a 50p discount for customers using reusable cups, but it said that this “did not move the needle in the way we thought it might”.

Estelle Brachlianoff, a senior executive at Veolia – another French-owned resource management company with major operations in the UK – also said that more needs to be done.

“We want to see incentives for manufacturers which use recycled materials to give products a second life,” said Ms Brachlianoff.

“We believe the solution lies in collaboration and at Veolia we want to ensure sustainability throughout the entire supply chain, including designers, manufacturers, processors and consumers,” she said.

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