Latte Levy

The UK has woken up and smelled the coffee cup nightmare – and now there’s no way this horrendous and avoidable problem can be put back to sleep. — chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall

2.5 billion throwaway takeaway disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK.

Prior to the Autumn Budget environmentalists proposed a 5p levy on takeaway coffee cups. It would not have made a jot of difference and was wisely rejected.

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has proposed what has already been misleadingly dubbed a latte levy, misleading as not a tax on lattes, it is a tax on disposable coffee cups, a levy of 25p on plastic-lined disposable coffee cups.

These cups are not as first appears paper, they are paper with a plastic liner, which means they cannot be recycled, go to landfill or incineration, or are dumped in the street as litter.

Note: The pedantic may point out there are three plants in the UK that can recycle these plastic-lined cup. They would be correct, but who is going to separate out these cups and send to the the plants? Thus to all practical purposes, they are not recycled.

The Select Committee took evidence. Three chains refused to cooperate, the usual suspects, Pret a Manger, McDonald’s, and tax-dodging Caffe Nero.

Earlier in the week, Pret a Manger launched filter coffee at 49p a cup, a 50p discount if brought own cup. In the absence of in-store information and sale of reusable cups in Pret a Manger, has been dismissed as  a PR stunt.

There are available compostable paper cups. But, in the absence of a scheme to compost or a compost heap to drop the cup on, will join the waste stream.

Reusable cups are of limited value. Expensive to buy, often made of plastic, have to be carried around. They only come into their own if used when popping out of the office for a coffee to bring back to the office, and only then if a substantial discount is given for their use.

The chains are already lobbying hard to stop the latte levy, their business model is built on encouraging the grab it and go, takeaway, consumerist culture, which may be why Pret a Manger  launched a preemptive strike earlier in the week.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

As always, it is the indie coffee shops who are leading the way.

What we have to do is discourage the take away culture. Compostable paper cups, reusable cups, is merely tackling the symptoms.

We have to encourage relaxing with a  cup of coffee at a coffee shop in ceramic or glass. There is then no requirement for a  takeaway cup.

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