January 5, 2018 / 12:03 AM / 3 months ago

British lawmakers call for 'latte levy' on disposable coffee cups

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britons sipping on hot tea or strong coffee should pay an extra 25 pence ($0.34) “latte levy” if they use a disposable cup, common in coffee shops and fast food eateries, British lawmakers said on Friday.

The government should also ensure that all disposable cups are recycled by 2023 or introduce a total ban if that target is not met, an Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report found.

Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the parliamentary group, said it was time for a “revolution” in recycling.

“The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, enough to circle the planet five and a half times,” she said in a statement. “Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered.”

The 25 pence charge would go toward improving Britain’s recycling and reprocessing facilities, the report said.

Some coffee shops in Britain already provide discounts to customers who bring their own cups.

The sandwich chain Pret A Manger said last month that it will increase its discount for bringing a reusable cup from 25 pence to 50 pence from January 2018.

Green Party lawmaker and EAC committee member Caroline Lucas told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the reforms were “long overdue” and hoped that they would change behavior.

“This is now a 10 billion pound industry, and the businesses involved need to show leadership and work quickly towards 100 percent recyclability, or face an outright ban - the time for talking is over,” she said in emailed comments.

In 2015, Britain introduced a 5 pence charge for plastic carrier bags, legislation that slashed usage and has taken about 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The EAC said it had learnt from this example that consumers were often more responsive to charges than discounts.

“The UK has woken up and smelled the coffee cup nightmare,” celebrity chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, said in a statement welcoming the report.

“Now there’s no way this horrendous and avoidable problem can be put back to sleep.”

Reporting by Adela Suliman. Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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