A number of waste and resources organisations, including CIWM, have this morning responded to calls from the Environmental Audit Committee for a 25p levy on disposable coffee cups, in its latest report, “Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups”.
CIWM would like to see renewed efforts by coffee retailers to promote reusable cups to their customers, adding that and a government-backed voluntary agreement might be a sensible first step.
Chief Executive of the Resource Association, Ray Georgeson, “welcomed the attention” being placed on the issue, adding: “Infrastructure for the collection, sorting and recycling of ‘on the go’ disposable products has not kept pace with society’s demand for convenience food and drink. It is recognised that there must be investment to improve the nation’s limited ‘on the go’ recycling collection infrastructure and to support the technology and capacity investments that are needed to ensure that materials collected are efficiently recycled with quality at the heart of the process.”
Further sticking with the “on the go” theme, CIWM CEO Dr Colin Church added:“This EAC report provides a useful summary of the challenges we face in developing a more sustainable approach to both disposable coffee cups and, by extension, single-use ‘on the go’ food contact packaging as a whole.
“However, it also highlights the need now to reframe the debate so that we can move forward. As the report notes, coffee cups are becoming an iconic symbol of wasteful behaviour in the same way that plastic carrier bags did, but the issues here are significantly more complex.
“Prevention remains the best environmental option and as a minimum, CIWM would like to see renewed efforts by coffee retailers to promote reusable cups to their customers and a government-backed voluntary agreement might be a sensible first step. However, convenience is a function of modern society and a holistic, long term solution for ‘on the go’ packaging waste will still be necessary.
“The question we must answer is what outcome is best and what interventions will work most effectively to deliver this outcome. Is it about raising more money – from producers or consumers or both – to develop new, separate collection, sorting and treatment infrastructure for coffee cups and (surely) other forms of disposable food and beverage packaging? Is it is about incentivising new packaging solutions that are recyclable through our existing infrastructure? Is it about ensuring there are sufficient non-food grade end markets for the recovered material?
“Whether or not the Government is willing to consider a levy, there is still a lot more work to be done by all the stakeholders involved to develop a sensible solution to this very modern waste problem.”
Progress Already Made
Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President at Veolia UK & Ireland, highlighted the progress it had already made in pioneering coffee cup recycling, working in partnership with Costa, Starbucks and McDonald’s.
“Our solutions, which have been rolled out nationwide, include in-house recycling bins, bulk collection and a post back service. This helps support better coffee cup disposal and reduces contamination, which is the biggest challenge in the recycling process.
“We want to see incentives for manufacturers which use recycled materials to give products a second life. More needs to be done and we believe the solution lies in collaboration.
“If the proposed levy were to be introduced, we believe it should be used to fund the collection of cups, since once they are separately collected they have a value and can be made into new products. Equally, the levy should be discounted when coffee shops do actually recycle – otherwise it presents no incentive and instead amounts to a general taxation.”
David Palmer-Jones, Chief Executive Officer of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said: “Taxes on takeaway coffee cups may provide a helpful nudge to consumers to abandon a throw-away culture, but for lasting change, proposals like these need to be part of wider, joined-up reform that shifts the burden of responsibility for all forms of packaging content, recyclability and ultimately their collection, back to the producer.
Disposable coffee cups may only represent a small fraction of the national annual tonnage of card and plastics produced which are lost from our recycling streams, but they leave the worst taste reminder of how on-the-go consumption can result in needless waste of our precious natural resources.”