Latte levy: Coffee cups could be banned by 2023

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A 25 pence (34 cents) levy on disposable coffee cups should be introduced and all disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023, according to the United Kingdom parliament's Environmental Audit Committee.

A report by the committee says that disposable coffee cups should be banned unless nearly all are recycled by 2023.

Britain should introduce a charge of 25 pence for disposable coffee cups to encourage recycling and reduce waste from retailers including Starbucks and Costa, a panel of lawmakers said.

In the United Kingdom 2.5bn takeaway coffee cups are used and thrown away each year - enough to stretch around the world five-and-a-half-times.

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".

Labelling - make sure that customers know that cups are "not widely recycled" and how best to dispose of their cup (this will often mean taking it back to the coffee shop).

Although some outlets give a discount to customers using their own cup, only 1-2 percent of buyers take up the offer, according to parliament's environmental audit committee which said a "latte levy" was needed instead.

Foodservice Packaging Association executive director Martin Kersh fears a ban on disposable cups would cause some coffee shops to close. The multi-layer material prevents the cup being recycled in exclusively paper or plastics recycling streams. Coffee shops have been sending out mixed messages for years, emphasising that their cups are "recyclable" and staying silent on the fact they are not actually recycled.

The plastic lining in coffee cups makes them costly to recycle, and the MPs say the businesses supplying and producing them do not bear the full costs of their disposal. Any stores that have in-house recycling options should also label their cups to reflect that. Companies across the industry have been working to address this barrier and increase cup recycling.

However, the difficulties surrounding the recycling of coffee cups are manifold: not only are recycling capabilities limited but the majority of cups go straight into the general waste.

The cups are technically recyclable, but because they mix paper and plastic components there are only three recycling facilities in the United Kingdom that can deal with them.

"We will investigate the impact of a 5p charge on a paper cup, coupled with prominent marketing of reusable cups, on customer behaviour", it said in a statement posted on its website. If not achieved, the report states, an outright ban on coffee cups should be introduced.

"By singling out disposable cups the committee is, by its own admission, looking for United Kingdom coffee retailers and their cup providers to underwrite the waste management of all packaging used on the go", he said. "Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will reuse become the norm in place of single-use and throw away".