Starbucks trials 5p takeaway cup charge in attempt to cut waste

27th February 2018 | Recycling

Starbucks will be the first UK coffee chain to trial a “latte levy” – a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups – under plans that aim to reduce the overuse and waste of 2.5bn disposable cups every year.

In the latest offensive in the war against plastic waste, the chain said it hoped the move, starting on Monday, would help change behaviour and encourage customers to switch to reusable cups instead. In the three-month trial, consumers buying hot drinks in takeaway cups in 35 selected London branches of Starbucks (including the City and West End) will have to pay an extra 5p. Baristas across the chain will also offer customers drinking in store a ceramic cup, cutting paper use further.

Takeaway cup charge

Its research, published on Monday, revealed that almost half (48%) of consumers said they would definitely carry a reusable cup to avoid paying the extra 5p. The trial is being carried out with the environmental charity Hubbub, which will receive the proceeds of the levy and use it to fund further research.

In January, MPs on the environmental audit committee called for 25p to be charged on top of the price of a hot drink, as concerns grow over coffee cup wastage. In the government’s 25-year environment plan released that week, Theresa May announced a call for evidence into charges for single-use items.

Disposable cups cannot be recycled by normal systems because they are made from cardboard with a tightly bonded polyethylene liner that is difficult to remove. As a result, just one in 400 cups are recycled – 0.25%. Half a million coffee cups are dropped as litter each day in the UK.

Although some coffee shops offer discounts for customers who bring their own cup, uptake of these offers remain low, at only 1 to 2% of purchases. Yet the impact of the plastic bag charge – which reduced bag usage by more than 83% in the first year – showed consumers were more responsive to a charge than a discount.

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