English coffee drinkers could soon be charged to use takeaway coffee cups, after the environment committee at the British parliament suggested a 25p (€0.29) levy, to combat parlous recycling rates. "Their silence speaks volumes", MPs said.
The 25 pence charge would go towards improving Britain's recycling and reprocessing facilities, the report said.
"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."
The environmental audit committee's report said: "Coffee shops with recycling schemes should place a "recyclable in stores only" label on cups".
Hardly any of them are recycled because the resin they are covered in makes it costly to do so, which means most end up being incinerated or in landfill emitting methane as they decompose and leaking ink into the environment.
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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. If you send us one of the 100 most useful comments, we'll forward it on to the Environmental Audit Committee and we'll send you an Independent-branded reusable coffee cup. There is also a lack of infrastructure to recycle them says the committee and disposing of coffee cups in on-street bins creates a costly waste contamination problem for local authorities.
Now many coffee shops offer an equivalent discount to customers who bring reusable cups (Pret A Manger just upped its discount to 50p), but awareness and uptake is very low, around 1 percent.
Starbucks now offers customers a 25p discount on drink orders if they bring their own reusable cup.
Britain produces 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste each year.
"We've seen with the plastic bag charge an 83 per cent reduction in plastic bag use", Ms Creagh said. The trial will begin next month and initially last for three months.
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A spokesman for Starbucks said of 5p charge trial: "We recognise there is growing concern about the number of single-use paper cups being used". Buy a reusable glass coffee cup here.
"At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that drink-in customers are always offered a ceramic cup, thus cutting paper use even further", added Starbucks.
Unlike other items, coffee cups cannot be recycled as they are made from cardboard with a tightly bonded polyethylene liner, which is hard to remove and means they can not be processed through paper mills. That's just one out of every 400 cups.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said the 5p plastic bag charge is proof that "these levies work".
"We believe that more testing is required to assess the impact a charge may have on changing behaviour", Hubbub's chief executive Trewin Restorick said.
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