The UK government has refused to introduce a levy on takeaway coffee cups, instead choosing to rely on voluntary discounts for reusable cups.
Earlier this year, the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) put forward a £0.25 levy on the cups, with the money raised used to improve the UK’s recycling infrastructure. It claims that the country throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year.
EAC chair Mary Creagh MP said: “The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action.”
The government response suggests that coffee shops should offer discounts for customers with reusable cups, instead of a levy on disposable cups. In its inquiry, the committee heard that a charge – such as that introduced on plastic bags – was the most effective way to change consumer behaviour.
During the inquiry, environment minister Therese Coffey MP told the committee that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) Voluntary and Economic Incentives working group would examine coffee cups for their next project.
Mary Creagh added: “Evidence to our inquiry demonstrated that charges work better than discounts for reducing the use of non-recyclable materials – as was the case with the plastic bag charge. By choosing to favour voluntary discounts for reusable cups, the government is ignoring the evidence about what works
“DEFRA’s Voluntary and Economic Incentives working group should open their consultation on coffee cups as soon as possible. The government should look to repeat the success of the £0.05 bag charge by introducing a latte levy.”
The EAC also recommended that coffee cup labelling should state where coffee cups can be recycled. The government responded to the committee’s recommendation by focusing instead on voluntary anti-litter labelling instead.
Mary Creagh concluded: “Evidence shows that while 90% of people put their coffee cup in recycling bins, only 0.25% are recycled due to inadequate infrastructure. The government’s anti-littering labelling proposal completely misses the point.
“Consumers deserve to know if their coffee cup will be recycled or not. The government’s response to my committee’s recommendation not only lacks ambition, and puts coffee in the ‘too difficult’ ministerial in-tray.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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