At the beginning of this year, we launched our Cut the Cup Waste campaign.
Each year, 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away in the UK. As well as supporting proposals to introduce a “latte levy”, The Independent has endeavoured to shine a light on the need to improve recycling facilities and on efforts to encourage the introduction of reusable cups.
We have asked customers what they think of the situation; we have sought answers from coffee stores and ministers; and we even sent our science correspondent on a caffeine-filled mission to find out how many cafes would serve him a cuppa in a disposable cup, even when he was “drinking in”.
At present, the government says it is not minded to introduce a levy on drinks sold in single-use cups. Its inaction has been criticised by campaigners and by parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee.
The pressure for change has been effective in some quarters, however: Waitrose has committed to end the use of disposable cups in its in-store cafes; Starbucks is trialling a 5p charge on takeaway cups; and Pret a Manger has doubled to 50p its discount on hot drinks bought by customer bringing their own reusable cups.
Much remains to be done, however. Just this week we reported on the staggering number of disposable cups used annually by English hospitals.
When we launched our campaign, we asked readers to send ideas and comments on the subject. The response was at once passionate, yet typically considered.
Today we publish some of the messages we received. And we will shortly be dispatching Independent branded cups to those who wrote in.
Please continue to tell us what you think about this vital environmental issue. You can write to us via email@example.com.
What you think
One highly successful Belfast independent coffee shop has developed nicely branded single-use cups, so why not commission a branded version of a Keep Cup instead? I wonder if The Independent would conduct a survey of MPs to determine their views in the hope of generating enough momentum for a future private member’s bill? Dermot Parsons
I am sure in my youth we had paper cups and straws that did not include plastic. Surely in this day and age we could develop a “waxed paper” that is biodegradable and recyclable. Philip Moore
I fully agree with the idea of a levy, perhaps even at a punitive rate, to help finance the development of a recyclable cup. Perhaps a public-private initiative? Hugh Allen
Far too much material is going to landfill when with a redesign the cups could be recycled. There are issues with leakage from a cardboard cup without a polymer liner and, of course, the threat of lawsuits from scalded customers, but it is doable. Chris Rogers
A 5p levy is unlikely to make a significant difference and would need to be set at a higher level. In a rural area, litter from these single use cups is a real problem. David Chaplin
Truly enjoyed your article regarding Starbucks [failure to fulfil] their recycling promise. Make a pot of coffee at home and put it in a travel mug. It sends a message to Starbucks, it’s good for our planet, it saves you time and a surprising amount of money will be in YOUR pocket. Debi
There are only three recycling facilities in the UK that can separate paper from plastic for recycling at present. This is a fundamental weakness in our whole cardboard and paper recycling system, not just for single-use cups. Andy Knott
The only way you’ll stop the use of the throwaway cups is to charge for them – it will have to be government-led, and across the board so that everyone has to comply. You can’t ignore the success of the plastic bag charge – unless I’m missing something, its exactly the same situation. Jo Dixon
I personally believe the 5p levy is unlikely to have a great impact on the problem. Much better to encourage reusable cups by decent discounting. David Rodker
Very few of the coffee shops here in Northern Ireland seem to promote reusable cups, and staff look surprised if you bring one and ask them to use it instead of a disposable cup. Lorna Parsons
I am wholly in favour of a ban on disposable coffee cups, unless they can be made to be totally and quickly biodegradable. If I had a reusable cup, I would make use of it even if there was no discount offered by the coffee vendor. Eleanor Griffiths
I find it amazing that no one has invented a disposable coffee cup that can be recyclable. Milk cartons can be recycled, but not coffee cups. Oliver Scally
It is the responsibility of all of us – the public, the retailers and the government – to move towards banning single-use disposable cups as soon as possible, which will ultimately help us to protect our environments. Maureen Beals
In the “good old days”, if we wanted a coffee when out and about, we went to a cafe and drank from a proper cup. We didn’t rush around, clutching a cardboard cup, drinking coffee on the move. Susan Wood
I was a reluctant recycler years ago but now I take a pride in trying to be as plastic free as possible. I have a note on my clingfilm dispenser to remind me to avoid using it wherever I can. Noelle Bolzern
UK government inaction is sad, but hardly surprising. I live in Wales and, thankfully, this is a devolved matter, which is why Wales introduced a successful plastic bag levy long before England. It looks as if the latte levy will go the same way. Nigel Callaghan
Since your campaigning on this topic, I have started carrying a reusable cup with me. It causes some alarm at airport security, but otherwise has been only a great experience. Sarah Carr
I am so glad this issue is getting more publicity, at last. I think it will take a while to change our habits, but it will happen – most of us now automatically take bags for shopping. There should be a hefty tax – say 20p per drink. This will help to change our habits. Maura Fisher Peake
Disposable coffee cups are only part of the problem. We also need to get rid of the plastic stirrers, napkins and sugar packets. Dianne Welsh
If you are carrying a reusable cup with you, the chances of you being more aware of wider environmental issues becomes more obvious. Linda Izan
I don’t agree with the latte levy, but I suspect it will encourage people to use reusable cups. I want to protect the animals from eating our unwanted plastic, so I will use reusable cups. Mrs McCormack
When I used to take instant porridge to work for my breakfast (which is mixed using boiling water), I couldn’t help noticing that the plastic pot that contained the dry mix porridge had a removable, lightly stuck-on, cardboard sleeve. When you’d finished your porridge, you pulled on a little tab on the cardboard sleeve (rather like a zip), thus separating the cardboard sleeve from the plastic pot for recycling. Why can’t disposable coffee cups be made in the same way? Glynis Leeson
I find that the worst places for coffee cups are the cafes at railway stations. Many actually have seating areas but will not sell coffee in a china cup. Chris Sciberras
Our lives are dictated by the food and drink industry, yet if consumers refused to buy any product in single-use, non-recyclable plastic, the industry would soon find alternatives. Linda Johnson
I am an avid recycler and would be happy to recycle every bit of plastic I can get my hands on. But when my local council changed their recycling system to a mixed bin collection, they stopped collecting plastics labelled 5 and 6, and we can now only recycle labels 1 and 2. A great deal of plastic is not labelled at all, or uses a hotchpotch of other symbols. Why is it still legal not to have a single, clear national labelling system on all plastic produced? Margaret Adams
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