Our dangerous addiction to takeaway coffee
They have called it the “latte levy”, but Twitter has come up with a million variations, said James Moore in The Independent: the “cappa-charge-o”, the “americharge-o” etc. I am, of course, referring to the call by MPS on the Environmental Audit Committee for a 25p charge on disposable coffee cups. We get through 2.5 billion coffee cups each year, but less than 1% are recycled, mainly because they have a plastic lining that only three UK plants can separate. The big coffee shops brand themselves as cuddly and caring, yet MPS say they have done remarkably little to tackle this problem. And we consumers aren’t much better. We profess to care about the environment, but it seems that too often, our convenience trumps it: even when chains have offered discounts to customers who bring their own reusable cups, 98% have kept taking the disposable ones. The plastic bag levy has changed our behaviour. Why not extend it?
Because despite all the huffing and puffing of green crusaders, coffee cups aren’t, in the scheme of things, that much of a problem, said Tom Welsh in The Sunday Telegraph. They account for 0.1% of waste, and while 500,000 of them are littered each day, which is terrible, that’s only 4% of those used. So why penalise the vast majority of coffee drinkers who – wrongly assuming the cups are recyclable – try to dispose of them responsibly, but are thwarted by this country’s failure to invest in proper reprocessing plants, and by the industry’s failure to develop biodegradable cups. It seems a lack of consumer awareness is a major part of the problem. Could the MPS’ levy be an attention-grabbing gimmick? Not necessarily, said the Daily Mail. The proposal is that the money raised from the levy would be used to improve our reprocessing facilities. Ultimately, though, we need to change our habits, said Alice Thomson in The Times: the plastic waste problem is reaching a crisis point, and the only real solution is to produce less of it. It wouldn’t be difficult for consumers to cut back – by using fewer disposable cups and water bottles, buying soap in bars and not in dispensers, opting for the condiments that are still sold in glass jars. If shoppers start to boycott plastic, manufacturers will find alternatives.
25p: the price of convenience