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Drive to increase recycling rates continues

05 January 2018

Recycling rates for disposable coffee cups is the focus of a report by the Environmental Audit Committee, which urges a 25p levy on cups unless these improve.

Committee chair Mary Creagh MP cited the 2.5bn disposable coffee cups thrown away in the UK every year, of which "almost none" are recycled and "half a million a day are littered", according to the BBC.

"Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and government has sat on its hands," she said.

Urging the need for a "revolution in recycling", Ms Creagh said this was needed in the rapid expansion of the coffee shop market.

Opposition to the levy has been voiced by Paper Cup Alliance's Mike Turner, who said the UK's paper cups are "sustainably sourced, responsibly produced, recyclable and, through a number of facilities, are being recycled".

"We are committed to increasing recycling rates," he said.

However, with less than 2% of coffee drinkers taking advantage of discounts for using their own cups, the government believes that a greater response will result in a levy similar to the plastic bag charge introduced last year.

Referring to the extra cost of recycling disposable cups due to their plastic lining, MPs have said the suppliers and producers do not bear the full cost of their disposal.

The BBC reported that the UK has just three facilities capable of recycling disposable coffee cups.

Although supported by environmental campaigners, the levy was questioned by Chris Stemman of the British Coffee Association as it "places an unfair and additional cost on coffee drinking consumers only".

"We urge the government to ensure that if any potential tax is considered, that it is ring-fenced and used specifically to invest in new 'binfrastructure' and to improve recycling processes with local authorities that make it easier to separate and stream paper cups and other waste products," said Mr Stemman.

He further encouraged focus on additional environmental issues, including less use of water, carbon reduction and turning waste coffee grounds into biofuel.

Plans to produce a new plastic policy have also been announced by the government, due for publication later in 2018.

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