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How Much Could the ‘Latte Levy’ Cost You?

January 5, 2018, 5:00 PM
  • MPs urge for 25p ‘latte levy’
  • Coffee shop cups cannot be recycled and are an environmental hazard
  • Tax could cost you almost £100 a year
  • Discounts already on offer for reusable cups
500,000 disposable cups are thrown away every day. Image: Getty.

MPs have called for a 25p tax on disposable coffee cups, with the extra money being spent on improved recycling facilities.

The Environmental Audit Committee have said that all disposable coffee cups should be made recyclable by 2023, and banned if this target is not met.

Currently less than 1% of coffee cups are recycled, because the UK only has three facilities that can split the paper and plastic components of the cups; the money from the tax would go to making more of these facilities.


The UK currently throws away 2.5 billion coffee cups a year, almost all of these are sent to landfill because their plastic lining makes them difficult to recycle.

Mary Creagh, the committee’s chairperson, said, “Coffee cup producers and distributors have not take action to rectify the waste, and the government has sat on its’ hands.

“The UK’s coffee shop market is expanding rapidly, so we need to kick-start a revolution in recycling.

“We’re calling for action to reduce the number of single use cups, promote reusable cups over disposable cups, and to recycle all coffee cups by 2023.”

The committee is hoping that the ‘latte levy’ would have a similar impact to the 5p tax on plastic bags from shops, which saw usage of the bags plummet by six billion in just the first six months of the scheme being put into use.

Reusable cups are part of a 'zero waste' style of living, that has been growing in the UK in recent years.

Leading coffee shop, Starbucks, said it would start a three-month trial a of 5p charge per paper cup in up to 25 shops in London throughout February.

The chain said that currently only 1.8% of its’ customers currently use reusable cups.

How Much Would This Cost You?

Although an extra 25p on top of your coffee might not seem like much, this can really add up.

If you get a coffee with a disposable cup everyday, it’ll cost you an extra £91.25 a year.

What are the Alternatives?

Plastic, reusable coffee cups can be bought online and from most high street retailers, if you want to avoid the latte levy, you can just bring one of these in instead.

If you want to be even more eco-friendly, avoid plastic reusable cups, and go for ones made of recycled or biodegradable material.

Cups made from bamboo, for example, are a better option, as these are less harmful to make, and are biodegradable.

Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, also suggested another idea.

He said, “Even better than a consumer coffee cup charge would be a refundable and returnable deposit scheme.

“It would mean that there was an incentive to take a cup back to any coffee shop rather than chuck it in the bin, and then companies would rightly bear the burden.”

What Discounts are on Offer?

Loads of coffee shops are already offering discounts on hot drinks if you bring in a reusable cup.

Pret a Manger recently announced that it will give customers 50p off their drink price if they use a reusable cup, a rise from the 25p discount it was already doing.

This means that if you get a coffee every day from Pret, bringing a reusable cup would save £182.50 a year.

Starbucks and Costa also do a reduction of 25p, and bakery chain Paul offers a 10p discount for bringing in a cup from home.

A Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs spokesman said, “We are encouraged by industry action to increase the recycling of paper cups, with some major retail chains now offering discounts to customers with reusable cups.

“We will carefully consider the committee’s recommendations and respond shortly.”

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