United Kingdom lawmakers considering a tax on coffee cups

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The UK Parliament's environmental audit committee, which looks at how various government departments and public bodies contribute to the environment, also recommended banning disposable coffee cups if they are not all recyclable by 2023.

Around 2.5 billion plastic-lined paper cups are used in Britain each year, but less than one in 400 are recycled, MPs on the environmental audit committee warned in a new report.

"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."

Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the parliamentary group, said it was time for a "revolution" in recycling.

The concept of a DRS has always been considered for plastic bottles (and was recommended in the EAC's previous report from this inquiry) and Lee Marshall of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) suggested at a previous EAC hearing that a deposit scheme for cups might have potential, but the committee focused more on improving on-the-go recycling, with today's report stating that "the nature of coffee cup waste does not lend itself to a deposit return scheme".

It said that moves to offer a discount for those who bring in their own cup had yielded very poor results, adding: 'We therefore recommend that the Government introduces a minimum 25p levy on disposable cups.

Neil Whittall, its Head of Coffee, said: "Whilst paper cups are fully recyclable, the industry recognises that many are not being recycled because of a lack of collection facilities".

They will need to work towards long-term systemic circular economy solutions, not just by offering customers choice but by offering them something which fixes the problem.

"We recognise there is growing concern about the number of single-use paper cups being used and that our customers are interested in ways we can help them reduce, reuse and recycle", said a Starbucks spokeswoman. "I am an expert in making fantastic coffee, but they [the cup manufacturers] are the ones with the knowledge and resources to be able to change".

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Green Party lawmaker and EAC committee member Caroline Lucas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the reforms were "long overdue" and hoped that they would change behaviour.

A charge has worked well to reduce the number of plastic grocery bags.

Unsure of how else to hammer eco-mindedness into customers, Starbucks said today that it will try a preemptive cup charge of its own.

Once used, the paper part of the cup is usually contaminated by the cup's contents.

"The public needs a simple, United Kingdom wide solution, one which is made possible by the introduction of an on-the-go waste management infrastructure".

"But the plastic coating protects against hot liquids".

At least 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away every year.

Environment Minister Theresa Coffey has also promised some sort of specific measure on disposable cups when the Government's waste strategy is published later in the year, but it is yet unclear as to whether they will go for the levy and the push to recycle all cups.

The Grocer has contacted Pret and Costa for comment.

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