U.K. Moves Toward Taxing Disposable Coffee Cups

It seems like the only way to get people on board with recyclables is by making them pay for disposables. After California kicked off the single-use plastic-bag ban in 2014, it spread to a a number of other states and cities; now here in Chicago we are charged seven cents per bag if we forget our usable shopping bags at home. And rightly so, as the bags have been shown to be harmful to wildlife and add even more volume to already overflowing landfills.

Along those lines, The Guardian announces that the British Parliament is "calling for a 25p charge on takeaway coffee in a move that could see disposable cups banned in five years time." This announcement is in light of a recent environmental audit, which reported that the U.K. produces 30,000 tons of coffee cup waste each year. Disposable cups are not accepted by paper mills, and "as a result just one in 400 cups are recycled–less than 0.25 percent. Half a million coffee cups are littered each day in the U.K."

The proposal also includes better labeling for consumers, and a lean on coffee chains to pay more toward cup disposal. The report firmly states, "Disposable coffee cups are an avoidable waste problem and if the U.K. cannot be confident of their future sustainability, the government should ban them." It also points to the plastic-bag fee as a success story:

Although some coffee shops provide discounts for customers who bring their own cup, uptake of these offers is low at only 1-2 percent of coffee purchases. The committee said the impact on consumer behaviour of the plastic bag charge–which reduced bag usage by more than 83 percent in the first year–showed consumers are more responsive to a charge than a discount.

The indicators seem clear: If people don't start recycling and incorporating more usable items on their own, eventually they'll have to pay for the unnecessary indulgence of disposables.