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UK government could reverse ‘latte levy’ stance after public consultation

Charge of up 25p on all single-use coffee cups could be introduced after 165,000 respondents to a Treasury consultation overwhelmingly backed measures to curb single-use plastic and container waste


The UK Treasury has recognised widespread public support for legislation to tackle single-use container and plastic waste. Respondents to the 6-month 'Tackling the Plastic Problem' consultation included individuals, businesses and campaign groups, who backed the introduction of new taxes to curb disposable container waste from the hospitality, foodservice and supermarket sectors.

In particular, 90,000 responses organised by environmental campaign group, Greenpeace, advocated charges on single-use cups, while 40,000 responses organised by the Marine Conservation Society call for charges on single-use items such as cutlery, plastic cups and lids, straws and tableware.

Responding to the findings, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond said he would explore the introduction of new taxes on single-use plastic packaging and containers, which include a long-mooted 25p charge on takeaway coffee cups.

Waste generated from plastic containers and disposable paper coffee cups, which cannot be easily recycled because a waterproof plastic coating, has faced growing public scrutiny in 2018 but the UK government has so far declined to legislate on the issue.

In March 2018, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, faced criticism for rejecting a call by one of his department's advisory bodies, the Environmental Audit Select Committee, to introduce a plastic bottle deposit scheme and a mandatory 25p charge on disposable coffee cups.

With the absence of government legislation, the UK’s major coffee shop chains have adopted their own initiatives in response to growing public concern on waste. Costa Coffee currently offers a 25p discount for customers using a reusable cup in-store while bakery chain Paul raised its reusable cup discount from 10p to 25p in 2018. Greggs offers a 20p discount for re-usable cup use and Caffè Nero offers an extra loyalty card stamp for doing so. In July 2018, Starbucks rolled out a 5p disposable cup charge across all its UK stores following a successful trial in London.

It remains to be seen how a mandatory charge would affect UK coffee shop revenues, especially those of smaller independents. In June 2018, Boston Tea Party, which has 21 stores in the UK, became the first coffee shop chain in the country to completely ban disposable cups in-store. The firm reported a 24% reduction in takeaway sales during the first month of the initiative, with Managing Director, Sam Roberts acknowledging his business could take a hit of up to £1m in lost revenues.

Research by Allegra World Coffee Portal has identified a growing appetite among consumers to reduce disposable cup waste, with 38% of consumers surveyed agreeing that take-away cups should carry a plastic bag-style levy – a 3% increase between 2016-2017.
 

 

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