Plastic cups: who should pay the tax?

coffee cup money filled with money and coffee beans

We’re all victims to the luscious smell of Costa Coffee or the occasional hot chocolate from Starbucks, but what do we do with the convenient plastic cups we get our drinks in once we’ve finished with it?

Well, if you’re like me, a recycle nutcase, then you’ll be throwing your used coffee cups into the blue lidded bin to be recycled, right?

Latte Levy

plastic takeaway coffee mug topsIt seems even after our attempts at recycling and saving our planet these coffee cups are actually unrecyclable… That’s right, because our coffee cups are made from a combination of paper and plastic only 1% can actually be recycled, which means even with our tree-hugger minds we’re not preventing the rubbish build-up.

So, what does the government propose to do? What else but a tax (already dubbed the Latte Levy) on using these plastic coffee cups. So we, the consumer, will have to pay the government 25p extra each time we use one of these plastic coffee cups – because the manufacturers of the cups made them unrecyclable.

A new problem

Reusable cups are a great way to prevent the build-up of our plastic coffee cups but are we not inviting a whole new problem?

paper coffee mug with plastic stirrerHere is a scenario: you’re on your way to work, the dogs messed in the kitchen so you have to clean it up which means you’re losing vital caffeine time.

Instead you decide to pop to Mcdonalds or Costa Coffee for a quick coffee before you get to work, you’re at the till ordering your skinny decaf latte with mocha sprinkles when you’re given this reusable cup because the company has stopped selling the old disposable ones.

You think to yourself, this is a great idea, bit costlier at first but in the long run it’ll serve you well since you never have to purchase a cup again. The next morning you wake up for work but it is snowing, so you miss out on your caffeine fix, again trading it to shovel snow off the drive to get the car out.

Is it right that we have to be the ones paying this tax?

So, you decide to get a coffee on the way into work, you forgot their new policy and your new reusable cup meaning you have to buy another one… but at least you have a spare right? Until the next time you fancy a hot drink and don’t have your reusable cup on you.

We could end up spending way more than we need to on reusable cups which inevitably will result in people buying less hot drinks, what will happen to Costa or Starbucks if we cut our mocha fix?

And what if we want a top up? Will the companies provide dishwashing services for used cups? Will this cost us even more or make us wait longer? There are so many unanswered questions which won’t come to light until this policy is in place.

Christmas markets are increasingly popular, with people flocking from all around the UK – sometimes even the world – to visit quirky stalls and drink the mulled wine. So, what happens to all those cups sold with the hot beverages? Well, they just might have the answer.

Mug deposit

Yes, you read that right, a mug deposit. Many drinks stalls at markets and music festivals now add an extra couple of quid onto your bill to give you the option of keeping your mug or returning it for your deposit. Maybe there is a way high street companies could incorporate this into our everyday lives? Perhaps we could take our cup off to work and return it later? Or just keep it.

recycle coffee signAnd then of course we get onto the topic of whether these new reusable cups are recyclable? If they’re not, is that not just bringing us back to square one? There’s still going to be a large-scale use of these cups and a lot of them thrown away or recycled just like the disposable ones we have now.

So, if we can’t recycle them, why would we pay more money for them when they’re just as bad as the last ones?

Perhaps they are recyclable, in which case, can we not use the same materials and methods to create cheaper cups which are disposable and easily recycled in the first place?

Now, let’s get back to the big question of who is going to pay this plastic cup tax. Of course, we as the consumer will be paying the tax, but where will this tax money go to? New innovative ways to recycle our waste? Or perhaps research into alternative materials?

Of course, this is still all in question still, and only a few companies are going to be starting a trial period of the 25p tax. These branches though are likely to be in the larger cities such as London so hopefully we won’t need to worry too much for a while yet…

Click here to read the government report (PDF): Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups

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