Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

British Politicians Want to Tax Coffee Cups to Cut Waste

  • Only Starbucks and Costa responded to the committee’s probe
  • Plastic lining in disposable cups makes recyling difficult

Britain should introduce a charge of 25 pence (34 U.S. cents) for disposable coffee cups to encourage recycling and reduce waste from retailers including Starbucks Corp. and Costa Coffee Ltd., a panel of lawmakers said.

Funds from the so-called latte levy would be used to improve recycling facilities nationwide, Parliament’s cross-party Environmental Audit Committee said on Friday in an emailed report. The government should also set a target to recycle all disposable coffee cups by 2023, and ban the cups if it fails to meet the goal, the panel said.

The U.K. uses 30,000 tons of coffee cup waste each year. Fewer than 1 in 400 cups is recycled, largely because their plastic linings make recycling trickier. With coffee shops now a fixture in British society, the committee said that consumers are more responsive to extra charges than to discounts for bringing in their own reusable cups.

“The U.K.’s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick-start a revolution in recycling,”  Committee Chairwoman Mary Creagh said in a statement. “The U.K. throws away 2.5 billion 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.”

The committee said it was “disappointed” that only Costa and Starbucks provided written evidence for its investigation, and not other major retailers, including Rome Pikco Ltd.’s Caffe Nero and the supermarket chains Tesco PlcWm Morrison Supermarkets Plc and Pret a Manger Ltd.

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