The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is not considering a levy on disposable cups, a spokesperson has said, following comments from resources Minister Rory Stewart, who suggested coffee cups could be taxed to tackle a “huge” recycling problem.
Rory Stewart made the comments in the House of Commons, after it emerged that just one in 400 coffee cups are recycled every year, according to cup recyclers, Simply Cups.
But a spokesman for the department, however, said there are “no plans” to create a new tax.
The comments by the Minister came about following statistics published in a report by Simply Cups. National media reported high street coffee chains have misled the public about how many paper cups they recycle, after it emerged that fewer than one in 400 high street coffee chain paper cups are recycled.
Fewer than 3m were recycled last year, according to Simply Cups, which operates Britain’s only paper cup recycling service.
During a House of Commons session, Rory Stewart admitted there is a “huge problem”, as millions of plastic-lined paper takeaway cups, which cannot usually be recycled, are disposed of in landfill.
Responding to demands from Labour MP Rob Marris that the Government consider cracking down on the “wretched number of plastic-lined paper takeaway coffee cups”, Stewart said: “I absolutely agree. It’s a huge problem and there are tens of millions of these things being produced and thrown away.
“As you have pointed out, many of these things cannot be recycled either by the way they’re disposed or because of the composition of the cup.
“Having tackled plastic bags, which I hope everybody in the House would agree the plastic bag tax has been a success, coffee cups seem to be a very good thing to look at next.”
Not Deliberately Misled
Peter Goodwin, co-founder of Simply Cups, said that it is apparent the application of the recycling symbol on a product (from whatever industry) bears no guarantee that a product – whilst recyclable – is actually going to be recycled.
He said: “At best, we believe that this may undermine confidence and create scepticism in what brands are trying to communicate to their consumers and, at worst, render the recycling logo completely worthless.
Peter Goodwin, Simply Cups – “Product stewardship means that it is the responsibility of everyone in the supply chain – producers, users and brands – to ensure that the waste industry has the ability to extract the economic value it needs to ensure a commercially viable solution”
“Simply Cups, however, believes that consumers are not being deliberately misled about why their used cups and cartons end up on a rubbish heap rather than made into second-life materials. Indeed, the lack of effective recycling will have surprised many brands and companies in the supply chain, who have historically passed the problem back down the line, without necessarily asking what really is happening to their waste.
“Whilst the waste industry is often criticised for its inability to provide solutions for every waste stream, it should not be its responsibility alone to solve the problem, nor is it acceptable to lay the blame wholly at their door.
“Product stewardship means that it is the responsibility of everyone in the supply chain – producers, users and brands – to ensure that the waste industry has the ability to extract the economic value it needs to ensure a commercially viable solution.
“It is now evident that brands can no longer use the recycling symbol as a defence mechanism to absolve responsibility but, instead, they should be engaging and collaborating with others in the supply chain in order to come up with workable solutions to tackle material segregation, collection and reprocessing.”
Simply Cups has set a target of recycling six million cups by end of 2016.