Latte levy: Coffee drinkers must act against cafe chains failing to tackle disposable cup waste, says senior MP

Mary Creagh hailed The Independent's backing for the 25p charge on disposable coffee cups

Latte levy: The plastic problem inside your coffee cup

The MP behind proposals for a 25p “latte levy” has called on coffee drinkers to take action against big corporations failing to tackle the environmental damage caused by disposable cups.

Mary Creagh, whose committee demanded the charge on all drinks bought in cups, said everyone buying coffee from shops like Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee should pressure the firms into doing more.

The ex-minister went on to praise The Independent as “a great campaigning organisation” after it also launched a drive to see the charge imposed.

Under the proposals put forward by the Environmental Audit Committee, the levy placed on top of the price of a drink, would help raise money to improve the UK’s reprocessing facilities, so-called “binfastructure” and ultimately change people’s behaviour.

Ms Creagh said: “Everyone can do their part. Buy a reusable cup, they are a quid in most coffee shops, keep one at your desk and in your car and wash it.

“But people also need to put pressure on their chains through social media, Facebook and Twitter, to take more action.

“People should also put pressure on their council if the authority is not providing better plastics collection.”

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Creating the paper cups to feed the world’s burgeoning coffee house culture sees some 6.5m trees felled every year.

The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the production and shipment of 2.5 billion cups – the number discarded in the UK every year – is equivalent to that produced by burning around 120 million litres of petrol.

Hardly any of them are recycled because the resin they are covered in makes it costly to do so, which means most end up being incinerated or in landfill emitting methane as they decompose and leaking ink into the environment.

The growing problem saw members of Ms Creagh’s committee also say that if all cups are not recycled within five years an outright ban should be placed on them.

Last year researchers at Cardiff University concluded that charging 25p for every coffee cup would help cut the number used by up to 300 million a year.

Ms Creagh said: “The Independent has been a great campaigning organisation. The environment is fast becoming the pressing political issue of our generation.

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“As we increase our understanding of pollution and non-recyclable plastics on our streets and in our seas, its impact on wildlife, then educating the public on how they can play their part is going to be critical.

“So it’s really welcome that The Independent is supporting this.”

The Labour MP said coffee shops were beginning to take action, with some announcing discounts for customers that bring in their own cup, but she said the charge was needed to have the more dramatic impact required to solve the problem.

The Government has shown itself to be receptive to calls to tackle problem packaging, setting the tone with a charge for plastic bags, and promising further legislation to protect the environment and animal rights.

Environment Minister Theresa Coffey has also promised some sort of specific measure on disposable cups when the Government’s waste strategy is published later in the year, but it is yet unclear as to whether they will go for the levy and the push to recycle all cups.

The Independent understands that while the Government is aware of and engaged with the problem, a key stumbling block is finding finance for the extra recycling capacity needed.

With the public purse under intense pressure campaigners will have an uphill struggle to secure the funds, though they may get an indication by the summer.

What you can do…

1. So far the MPs’ report is just a recommendation. Have your say: write to your MP supporting the proposal.

2. Tell us what you think by emailing lattelevy@independent.co.uk. If you send us one of the 100 most useful comments, we’ll forward it on to the Environmental Audit Committee and we’ll send you an Independent-branded reusable coffee cup.

3. Buy a reusable coffee cup – many cafes already offer a discount to customers who bring their own cup.

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