Thing back to the long distance past of two months ago, and you might remember that a government report from the Environment Audit Committee suggested a 'latte levy' that would see customers pay 25p every time they bought a hot drink in a disposable cup. A fine for buying something in a cup that is hard to recycle, basically, in an effort to cut down on waste.
But it's been revealed that government ministers aren't too keen on the idea. It's possible this is because they enjoy a good Starbucks in the morning, but the official response is that coffee chains should be encouraged to offer discounts for people who drink their own mugs. Ministers also claim they heard little evidence that recyclable cups would meet the standards required to prevent coffee cups from contaminating the recycling process.
"Coffee cups make up 0.7% of total paper packaging waste in the UK. We believe it is important to look at the packaging and waste management system as a whole."
While ministers said more research is needed into the topic, the government has indicated possible reforms are coming that would see packaging firms contribute to the cost of technology needed to recycle their products.
But Environmental Audit Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh had some harsh words for the government:
"The UK's throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The government's response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action."
She also referred to evidence from the committee that showed people respond better to charges than discount, using the recent plastic bag charge as an example, saying, "By choosing to favour voluntary discounts, the government is ignoring the evidence about what works."
She has a point. Most major coffee chains offer discount for bringing in your own cup, and have done for quite some time, but clearly waste is still a big problem. There was a surge in reusable cup sales after Blue Planet II showed the extent of the damage plastic was having on the oceans, but that's not going to work as a full time solution. Work should be done to ensure disposable coffee cups can be recycled more easily, but in the meantime people do like to vote with their wallets. An extra 25p on their daily beverage could do a lot to change people's minds about carrying a reusable cup around.
They tend to wash them as well, so there's an extra benefit for anyone on the fence. [BBC News]