New studies have discovered that citizens in the UK throw away enough takeaway drink cups to circle the planet nearly six times per year. As a result of this staggering statistic, MPs plan to ban all non-recyclable cups by 2023 and increase charges to companies that do not adhere to the policy.
Studies from the Environmental Audit Committee determined that 2.5 billion cups are thrown away each year, less than 1% of which are recycled. This is due to the plastic polyethylene lining that only three plants in the UK are able to separate.
Currently, companies including Costa, Pret A Manger and Starbucks offer a discount on their drinks for anyone who brings a reusable cup. In Pret A Manger, customers can receive a 50p reduction and in both Costa and Starbucks the discount is 25p. All of these companies allow consumers money off, regardless of the brand of cup.
The proposed levy will mean that companies can charge an extra 25p to drink prices to pay for the cup. Researchers from the University of Cardiff believe that this can reduce waste by up to 30 million cups per year. Despite the discount that is currently offered by companies, 98% of customers have still chosen to use disposable cups instead.
After the introduction of a 5p tax on plastic bags started in October 2015, there has been a significant positive impact with an 83% reduction on the number used. Furthermore, £66 million has been donated to good causes due to the 5p tax on each bag used. With the overwhelming success of the tax, it is likely that a ‘latte levy’ will also be worthwhile.
Since learning about the damage caused by our waste, I have changed to drinking from a reusable cup at college. To encourage greater awareness about the importance of decreasing unnecessary waste, new online retailers have designed eco-friendly cups, including ‘E-Coffee Cup’. These cups are made from bamboo fibres, a sustainable source, and are available in a wide range of patterns and designs.
Despite the extreme impact that disposable cups are having on our environment, there is a much wider problem regarding the use of plastic. Plastics never degrade but become micro-plastics, infiltrating the oceans and even the air we breathe. Ultimately, as consumers it is our responsibility to change our habits so that alternatives to single-use plastic become the norm.