Resource minister Therese Coffey has spurned Liberal Democrat calls for a charge on disposable drinks cups.
The unwillingness to introduce a charge to cut the 2.5 billion cups thrown away each year came in a letter in which the minister set out existing voluntary measures.
The letter was sent to Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder.
“Many major chains are taking their own action to incentivise environmentally friendly behaviour, for example, by offering a discount on drinks if customers bring their own cup,” Coffey wrote.
The exchange was reported by the Guardian newspaper, which says that Starbucks is the only major chain to offer customers a discount, of 25p, if they bring in their own cup. Caffe Nero gives customers double stamps on its reward cards if they bring in reusable cups.
The minister also mentioned the industry-led Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group, which comprises 45 signatories from supply chain organisations.
Bearder told the paper: “This letter shows the Conservative Government is in complete denial about the scandalous waste caused by throwaway coffee cups. Not only is the minister refusing to act, she is refusing to even acknowledge this as an issue.”
In March, former resources minister Rory Stewart was quickly contradicted by Defra after he seemed to suggest disposable coffee cups should be taxed as with single-used plastic bags.
Foodservice Packaging Association, executive director Martin Kersh, responds:
“This is a good call from the minister and shows she is listening to the industry, which has responded to the call for increased recovery and recycling of cups by coming together and pledging to make a significant difference by 2020. We are making good progress and there is a lot happening both in terms of research and action. However, we need again to reiterate that paper cups and carrier bags are quite different.
”Even Professor Wouter Poortinga, author of the Cardiff University report that points to the success of the carrier bag charge, says that paper cups are different. He said (Guardian, 29 September 2016) regarding the call for a 5p charge on paper cups: ’It’s not exactly the same. It’s easier to adapt to a bag charge by bringing your own bag than bringing a paper cup. You have to find ways round the hassle factor.’
“The industry is working on improving recovery and recycling along the supply chain but it’s a complex scenario, not least because the UK waste management infrastructure has changed little in recent decades and has not moved with the needs of society. We live in a 24/7 culture that is time-poor and, by necessity, driven by convenience. We are working hard to find solutions but safe, economically viable and sustainable answers won’t be found overnight.”
Coffey coffee letter to Bearder