UK MPs reject levy on single-use plastic coffee cups

UK MPs reject levy on single-use plastic coffee cups © Marco Verch
© Marco Verch

UK MPs have rejected calls to impose a so-called latte levy on disposable, single-use plastic coffee cups.

MPs on the UK parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee had proposed imposing a mandatory charge on single-use plastic coffee cups of £0.25 (€0.28) as part of a wider UK strategy to limit plastic pollution.

The idea behind the charge was to encourage customers to bring their own reusable cups, and MPs who proposed it suggested it could be used to fund broader recycling of plastic cups. However, in response to the proposal, the government said that it wanted to take a broader view and adopt a more comprehensive strategy to tackle plastic waste.

Why was the proposal rejected?

Ministers nixed the proposal, arguing that coffee outlets should offer voluntary discounts to customers who bring their own reusable cups, rather than imposing a comprehensive levy on single-use plastic coffee cups.

The government said: “Coffee cups make up 0.7% of total paper packaging waste in the UK. We believe it is important to look at the packaging and waste management system as a whole.” It also said that more research would be needed to determine what the potential impact of such a charge would be.

How did the Environmental Audit Committee respond?

The Environmental Audit Committee criticised the government’s decision, suggesting that it is lacking commitment to its aim of cutting plastic litter. The committee’s chair, Mary Creagh, argued that a charge for single-use plastic coffee cups would work much better than a discount for bringing reusable drinkware.

She said: “Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action. … By choosing to favour voluntary discounts, the government is ignoring the evidence about what works.”

Creagh also warned of a “throwaway culture” in the UK, which she said is contributing towards high levels of pollution. The UK government has suggested it intends to increase producer responsibility in this area by having the producers of single-use products contribute towards the cost of recycling.


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