MPs call for 25p charge on takeaway coffee cups ahead of possible ban

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    In UK 2.5bn disposable cups are thrown away each year, of which less than 0.25% are recycled, according to environmental audit committee report.


    MPs are calling for a 25p charge on takeaway coffee in a move that could see disposable cups banned in five years time.

    In the UK 2.5bn takeaway coffee cups are used and thrown away each year – enough to stretch around the world five-and-a-half-times. The UK produces 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste each year, according to a report published by MPs on the environmental audit committee on Friday.

    Disposable cups cannot be recycled by the normal systems because they are made from cardboard with a tightly bonded polyethylene liner, which is difficult to remove, and means they are not accepted by paper mills.

    As a result just one in 400 cups are recycled – less than 0.25%. Half a million coffee cups are littered each day in the UK, the report said.

    MPs are calling for:

    • a 25p levy on coffee bought in takeaway cups to be used to reduce the number of cups thrown away and invest in reprocessing facilities
    • the introduction of a ban on throwaway coffee cups if a target that all takeaway cups are recyclable by 2023 is not met
    • coffee chains to pay more towards disposing of cups
    • improved labelling to better educate consumers
    Labour MP Mary Creagh, chair of the committee said: “Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and the government has sat on its hands.”

    Only two of the major coffee chains gave evidence to MPs inquiry, while others refused to engage.

    “Their silence speaks volumes,” MPs said.

    “There is no excuse for the ongoing reluctance from government and industry to address coffee cup waste,” the report said. “Disposable coffee cups are an avoidable waste problem and if the UK cannot be confident of their future sustainability, the government should ban them.”

    Some coffee shop chains – Starbucks and Costa – had shown initiative in introducing on-site recycling bins for cups, which they then sent to one of three specialist recycling facilities. These were “well meaning”, MPs said, but not enough to tackle the scale of cup waste in the UK. Other efforts were “inconsistent and need targets” to be imposed by the government.


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