Will the Lib Dems’ Proposed Tax on Disposable Coffee Cups Actually Work?

The party wants to introduce a 5p levy on takeaway coffee cups in a bid to cut the amount of plastic sent to landfill.
May 16, 2017, 1:05pm
Photo via Flickr user Luiz Filipe Carneiro Machado

Grabbing an almond milk cortado from your favourite independent coffee shop or a quick venti cappuccino in between business meetings might make you feel trendy and important, but takeaway coffee habits aren't so great for the environment. Last March, The Times revealed that of the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups used in Britain every year, fewer than one in 400 are recycled. Currently, regular paper processing plants are unable to separate the cups' plastic film and paper parts, so most end up in landfill.

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But the Liberal Democrats think they have a solution. In their new manifesto, the party pledges a 5p levy on disposable coffee cups. They say that such a coffee cup tax would encourage more people to bring reusable cups to coffee shops and therefore reduce waste, pointing to the success of the 5p plastic carrier bag tax, which was introduced in October 2015 and has resulted in an 85-percent reduction in use.

It's not the first time that the Lib Dems have voiced their concern over disposable coffee cup waste. Last November, the party's MPs criticised Conservative Environment Minister Therese Coffey for rejecting calls for a 5p coffee cup levy.

But there are other ways to reduce disposable coffee cup waste. Suffolk-based packaging company Frugalpac has developed a fully recyclable coffee cup that comes lined with a removable plastic film. MUNCHIES reached out to the founder, Martin Myerscough, to find out whether he thinks a coffee cup tax is a good idea.

Myerscough said: "It is great to see that the Liberal Democrats have made tackling the issue of coffee cup waste an important part of their manifesto. However, it must be said that calling for a 5p charge, similar to a plastic bag, is a simplistic attempt at a fix."

He continued: "For the overwhelming majority of people drinking coffee on the go, non-recyclable disposable cups are the only choice offered by the big coffee chains and therefore this becomes a punitive tax. Even if people do carry around a re-usable coffee cup, this means they need to carry around a dirty cup for the rest of their day. It just isn't hugely practical."

The war on waste wages on.