United Kingdom lawmakers call for 'latte levy' on takeaway cups

Experts estimated a 25p levy could raise £438million and lead to a 30 per cent reduction in the number of cups as more people carry their own. Last night Starbucks became the first firm to break ranks saying it would pilot a 5p charge in selected store

Noting that approximately 2.5 billion paper-based disposable coffee cups are thrown away in the United Kingdom every year, a British Parliamentary committee is calling for a 25 pence (approximately USD$0.34) tax on disposable coffee cups.

The MPs urged ministers to set a target that all such cups be recycled by 2023, and "if this target is not achieved, the government should ban disposable coffee cups".

Café chain Pret A Manger recently announced it will reduce 50p from the price of a hot drink when the customer buying it is using their own reusable coffee cup.

"We found that this did not move the needle in the way we thought it might".

Starbucks is the only coffee chain charging customers for disposable cups at and that, for now, is for a trial period.

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The environmental impact is serious. Many coffee drinkers are not aware of this and put their cups into recycling bins.

The Liberal Democrats said they had been campaigning for a charge on coffee cups since September 2016 and were the only party to include the policy in their 2017 election manifesto.

Now the United Kingdom goes through 500,000 coffee cups a day, most of which are not recycled - and can't be thanks to the mix of materials that makes them sturdy and waterproof. About two dozen London cafés will test out a seven-cent fee for drinks served in disposable cups, coupled with "prominent marketing of reusable cups".

"Just five retailers have taken up [one company's] cup recycling initiative and the firm has recycled just 10m cups following a target of 500 million a year."
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.

Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President at Veolia UK & Ireland, highlighted the progress it had already made in pioneering coffee cup recycling, working in partnership with Costa, Starbucks and McDonald's.

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The UK uses 30,000 tons of coffee cup waste each year.

About 2.5 billion paper cups are used in the United Kingdom every year.

The report said most of the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away every year are incinerated, exported or landfilled.

The last decade has brought about an explosion in the United Kingdom café culture, as the traditional English cup of tea has succumbed to its roasted rival, with the milky latte taking top spot as the nation's most popular takeaway hot drink, served in paper cups laminated with a plastic sheeting, which waterproof the containers and stop hot drinks leaking onto customer's hands. According to a Reuters report, a spokesman from the the British environment ministry said the ministry plans to "carefully consider the committee's recommendations and respond shortly".

"With all the will in the world we can't make that change and we wish we could", he said.

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The environmental audit committee's report said: "Coffee shops with recycling schemes should place a "recyclable in stores only" label on cups".

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