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"Latte Levy" declined by the Government

9th March 2018

Cherry Whittaker

The Environment Audit Committee's (EAC) proposal of introducing a 25p latte levy on disposable cups used for hot drinks, has subsequently been refused by the Government. Instead, offering voluntary discounts for the use of reusable cups has been favoured


The aim of the initial recommendation made by the EAC was to introduce a scheme which works in a similar manner to the plastic carrier bag levy, in terms of striving to reduce the use of disposable coffee cups whilst also to assist with generating money to finance recycling procedures.

The Government issued a response on 5 March 2018, which explained their reasoning behind declining the recommended levy; the main points being that they had doubts about whether a scheme of this type would actually achieve the desired results, and also thought it would move too far away from any obligatory element of producer responsibility for the disposable cups. In addition, Ministers stated that large manufacturers of disposable cups and hot drink retailers are thus far covered by the current packaging waste regulations, which requires them to provide funds towards recycling of the items they place on the UK market.

Having chosen to refuse the EAC's proposal, the Government have said they will look into potentially providing incentives for producers to implement the voluntary discount offering to customers bringing reusable cups into coffee retail stores for their drinks. Some major coffee chains have already taken action to reduce the use of disposable coffee cups in this manner. Overall, the Government have said they think these possible incentives will contribute towards the same end-results as a 25p levy would, in terms of of increased recycling and reduced littering.

However, the Environment Audit Committee's chair Mary Creagh MP doesn't believe that the current system is effective for disposable cups. Part of her response to the Government is as follows: 

“The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The Government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action.”

Blue chip brand Starbucks, are leading the way in terms of actually putting theories into practice to determine effectiveness, by having launched a 3-month 5p latte levy trial in 25 shops across London. The aim of this is to assess whether their customers will minimise their use of disposable cups. The funds generated from this trial will be donated to an environmental charity who will assist Starbucks in evaluating the effects of the trial. Starbucks already introduced a £1 reusable cup to their offering back in 2014, demonstrating their forward thinking and understanding of their consumers, in terms of making it easy for the public to re-use coffee cups cheaply. 

Considering the Government's decision, the EAC hope that there will be a demanding target for disposable cups in the Resources and Waste Strategy which is soon to be published, in order to notably increase the UK's recycling rates.