People should be charged a 25p ‘latte levy’ for using disposable coffee cups, MPs have said.
The money raised from the charge, which would be on top of the price of a coffee, would be put towards improving recycling facilities, with all disposable coffee cups being recycled by 2023.
If the target isn’t met, disposable cups should be banned outright, the Environmental Audit Committee said.
Some cafes already give customers money off the price of a hot drink if they use reusable cups – such as Pret a Manger, which has just doubled its discount to 50p.
However, the committee said the uptake of these offers was low at only 1% and 2% of coffee purchases, and customers were more responsive to a charge than a discount based on the success of the 5p single-use plastic bag levy.
Why aren't coffee cups getting recycled?
Right now the UK throws away around 2.5billion disposable coffee cups a year.
Almost all of these cups are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill, because their plastic lining makes them expensive to recycle.
Fewer than 1% of coffee cups are recycled, because there are only three facilities in the UK that can split the paper and plastic components.
However, most people dispose of their coffee cups in recycling bins because they think they’ll be recycled.
The committee has said that cups from cafes that do not have in-store recycling systems should also be printed with ‘not widely recycled’ labels to boost consumer awareness, while cafes that do have recycling systems should label their cups as ‘recyclable in store only’.
The committee is also urging the Government to set fees for producers who make packaging that is difficult to recycle.
Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh said: ‘The UK throws away 2.5billion disposable coffee cups every year, enough to circle the planet five-and-a-half times. 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. We’re calling for action to reduce the number of single use cups, promoting reusable cups over disposable cups and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023.’
She added: ‘Coffee shops have been pulling the wool over customers’ eyes, telling us their cups can be recycled when less than 1% are. Taxpayers are footing the bill for disposing of the billions of coffee cups thrown away each year, whether or not they are coffee drinkers.
‘It is only right that producers should bear more of the financial burden to help recycle their packaging, so my committee is calling for producer responsibility reform that rewards businesses that use sustainable packaging and makes those that don’t face higher charges.’
Laura Foster, head of clean seas at the Marine Conservation Society, said: ‘Just like the plastic bag charge we are all now familiar with, a charge added to our coffee at the point of purchase will help consumers think about whether to take a refill cup to the cafe.
‘We totally agree with the committee that if 100% recycling of coffee cups isn’t reached by 2023, then there should be an outright ban on providing them.
‘Only by treating this issue as one that is the responsibility of both industry and consumers will re-use become the norm in place of single-use and throw away.’