Charge on coffee cups to boost recycling proposed by United Kingdom lawmakers

A cross-party committee called for urgent action to curb the mountain of up to five billion disposable coffee cups dumped each year in the UK almost none of which are recycled

Parliament's environmental audit committee highlights today Britain's use of 2.5 billion coffee cups a year, which it says is enough to circle the planet five and a half times.

Thanks to the UK's ever-growing coffee shop culture, and the general trend for using disposable cups given at the counter rather than reusable ones brought in from home, the country is throwing away a huge 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year, according to a study by Cardiff University.

"Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered", added Creagh.

"The UK's coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick start a revolution in recycling". The plan is being considered by ministers amid calls for a complete ban on all disposable cups by 2023 unless manufacturers can make them recyclable.

Commenting on the paper cups report, the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCCRG) said that improvements to infrastructure, alongside changing consumer behavior through education and conveniently located collection/recycling points could create more sustainable paper cup supply chain.

"The paper cups we manufacture in the United Kingdom are sustainably sourced, responsibly produced, recyclable and, through a number of facilities, are being recycled".

Some coffee shops give customers discounts for bringing their own refillable cups.

"Taxing the morning coffee run will not address the issue of litter, but it will hurt consumers and impact already struggling High Streets". We will carefully consider the committee's recommendations and respond shortly'.

However, the difficulties surrounding the recycling of coffee cups are manifold: not only are recycling capabilities limited but the majority of cups go straight into the general waste. If this target is not achieved, the Government should ban disposable coffee cups'.

MPs also explained that consumers should be included in that conversation through improved labeling which will offer proper guidance on how to best dispose of coffee cups.

The tax would fund plants capable of recycling the cups, persuade people to carry reusable cups and encourage the use of traditional ceramic mugs in workplaces, the report said. Any stores that have in-house recycling options should also label their cups to reflect that.

On Friday the environment ministry said the government was working closely with the sector and had made progress in increasing recycling rates.

Last night chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - whose BBC show Hugh's War on Waste first drew attention to the paper cup problem - said the report showed "the United Kingdom has finally woken up and smelled the coffee cup nightmare".