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MPs resurrect inquiry into coffee cups and plastic bottles

A Parliamentary inquiry into disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles, ended by the general election, has been relaunched.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) wants to revisit a topic which has had much currency in the mainstream media in recent months. It is asking:

  • What is the environmental impact of waste from coffee cups and plastic bottles?
  • Are the rates of use, collection levels and recycling levels of these products increasing or decreasing over time?
  • What are the challenges of recycling these products?
  • What obstacles have prevented greater progress in increasing recycling rates?

One area for consideration is how the UK leaving the EU might affect coffee cup and plastic bottle waste. 

EAC will be accepting written submissions until 29 September from those who did not submit earlier in the year or who wish to update their evidence after recent developments, including the go-ahead in Scotland for a bottle deposit return scheme (DRS).

Approximately 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year, of which fewer than one in 400 are recycled. There are two sites in the UK that have the capacity to separate the plastic film from the paper and allow it to be recovered and recycled into new paper products.

The design for Scotland’s DRS system has yet to be finalised. Environment secretary Michael Gove has said a DRS would be a “great idea” but added it was important to ensure the effectiveness of a scheme before guaranteeing its implementation.

Environmental Audit Committee call for evidence on disposable packaging: coffee cups and plastic bottles


Are consumers aware of the complexities of recycling these products? How could we increase awareness amongst the public and what impact would this have?

What actions are being undertaken by retailers and industry to reduce waste generated by coffee cups and plastic bottles? How effective have these initiatives been? How could the Government better support these initiatives?

How effective, to date, have Government and local government led initiatives (such as #1MoreShot) been at reducing waste and increasing the recycling of coffee cups and plastic bottles? What progress has been made to develop a viable, recyclable alternative to the polyethylene coated paper cup? What are the pros and cons of the use of such cups?


What initiatives could be introduced to reduce coffee cup and plastic bottle waste or to lessen the impact of this waste? In particular what are the opportunities and risks associated with:

  • Incentives to encourage the use of re-usable alternatives for these products.
  • Charges, taxes, deposits or levies on the use of these products.

How can we encourage households, businesses, food and drink outlets, and offices to change their recycling culture or to introduce policies that reduce their coffee cup and plastic bottle waste?

How are other countries working to reduce coffee cup and plastic bottle waste? What examples of best practice are there that the UK could learn from?

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