It’s about time. Our coffee industry is growing at an incredibly fast rate and action needs to be taken on the huge amount of waste it produces. The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year which is enough to stretch around the earth five and half times.
Currently less than 1% of these are recycled, leaving the rest to be incinerated or for landfill and it’s estimated that half a million a day are simply littered. The main reason for this is that the cups contain a thin plastic coating on the interior which is not easy to remove. As a result, there are only three processing plants in the UK which will recycle them.
As a response to this, The House of Commons Audit Committee has released a report suggesting the government should introduce a 25p ‘Latte levy’ on disposable cups. People widely acknowledge that something needs to be done and MP’s are open to this idea. Some have also proposed that cups should be prohibited altogether by 2023 if they are not being recycled.
Some companies are already discussing whether a tax is the best (and fairest) solution. Are there other options?
Rewarding those who use reuseable
Coffee shops have been aware of the need to reduce the number of disposable cups used for some time. They often offer discounts for people who bring a reusable cup. Whilst this could be seen as a promising step, it has been noted that only 1-2% of drinkers respond.
This year Pret a Manger doubled their discount to 50p off for people who bring in a reusable cup to try and encourage people to change their habits and reduce waste. People often respond better to a charge than a discount, only time will tell if this is effective.
More ways/places to recycle
Although there are only three companies in the UK who can recycle cups, it is still possible. So, if it were more widely available, more cups would be able to be recycled. Research could also be put into other technologies to find the best way to make cups and recycle them. When coffee cups are recycled they can be reused to create all sorts, from simple pencils and paper to furniture!
Different types of coffee cups
Some companies already use compostable coffee cups. They are considered more environmentally friendly as they break down over time. This is possible because they use a plant based lining rather than plastic. However, arguably this takes some time and is therefore not as effective as a reusable cup.
At Revive we have looked at different options for what to do with our paper cups. From getting our own reusable versions to ways of recycling them into new products. Watch this space!
It could be argued whether the Latte Levy is the best option but one things for sure - People are taking protecting the environment seriously, and that is definitely something to celebrate.