The latte levy
With the Environmental Audit Committee revealing that the UK throws away a deplorable 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups annually (enough to circle the planet five and a half times), it is no surprise that the coffee to go industry is coming under scrutiny.
Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee commented on the issue, "Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered. Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands. The UK's coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling."
In order to try and combat the number of disposable cups that are thrown away the government is proposing a new 25p ‘latte levy’ on all cups.
It is hoped that the charge will deter coffee drinkers from using one-use cups, which the UK struggles to recycle as each of the components of the cup need to be recycled separately. As it stands the UK only has three plants which can deal with such requirements.
Naturally the announcement has caused a stir with the makers of such cups who have stressed that their products only contribute to 0.7% of total paper packaging waste, and that imposing such a levy would hand down more problems to the high street and negatively impact consumers.
Currently high street coffee conglomerates Pret, Starbucks, Costa, Greggs and Paul all offer a discount for patrons who come with their own reusable cups, with Pret topping the list with a 50p reduction in cost for environmentally minded customers – however the uptake on the scheme is relatively small with only 1-2% of people opting in.
This is not the first such levy to be put in place to help the environment though. The ‘latte levy’ follows the successful carrier bag charge which was implemented in the UK in 2015 and has widely been proven effective. The carrier bag charge, while unpopular at first with consumers, saw massive 85% reduction in plastic bag usage in the UK as of last summer.
With previous law showing that such charges can have a positive effect on the environment, it seems like the latte levy may soon be passed.