Disposable coffee cups should be sold with a 25p “latte levy” to reduce waste and boost recycling rates, according to a new report.
MPs on the Environment Audit Committee say the charge would encourage consumers to bring their own reusable cups.
The money raised from those who refused would be used to increase the number of recycling plants able to handle plastic-lined take-away cups.
Mary Creagh MP, the committee chairperson, told Sky News: “We have seen, with the plastic bag charge, an 83% reduction in use.
“We think a latte levy will be the kind of charge that will make people think ‘I need to bring my cup to work today’, in the same way that they are moving more and more to reusable plastic bottles.”
At least 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away every year.
But just four recycling companies in the UK can separate the plastic film lining the inside of the paper cup. As a result just six million – 0.25% – are recycled.
The MPs say that all of these cups should be recycled by 2023 – or the Government should step in and ban them.
Edwin Harrison, owner of the independent Artisan coffee shop in West London, fears many of his customers would stay away if a charge was brought in.
He said he had tried, but failed, to source easily recyclable cups.
“It’s out of our hands,” he said.
“With all the will in the world we can’t make that change and we wish we could.
“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.”
Some coffee shops give customers discounts for bringing their own refillable cups. But just 1 to 2% of customers do this.
Research by psychologists suggests charging customers 25p for a disposable cup would have a greater impact, reducing the number sold by up to 30%.
Chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “The committee has recognised that the huge mountain of disposable coffee cups is effectively unrecyclable, and is overwhelming and disrupting the nation’s waste disposal systems, ultimately polluting our rivers and seas, and needs urgent action.
“But in the end, finding that solution needs to be a matter for law, not just financial incentive. Legislation needs to set a date after which the continued production of unrecyclable coffee cups is banned by law.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the committee’s recommendations would be carefully considered.
But they added: “We are encouraged by industry action to increase the recycling of paper cups, with some major retail chains now offering discounts to customers with reusable cups.”
:: Sky has been running a campaign to make people more aware of the effect plastic has on the world’s oceans and to share ways of tackling the problem. To get involved in Sky Ocean Rescue, visit the campaign website here. You can also watch our documentary, A Plastic Voyage.