‘Latte levy’ could cost 11,000 jobs, paper cup industry says

The Paper Cup Alliance (PCA), an industry group representing the UK’s eight main paper cup manufacturers and suppliers, claims 25p recyclable paper cup levy could cost the economy £819m and 11,000 jobs in the coffee retail sector.

The group believes their research shows that the costs associated with a tax on recyclable paper cups may hugely outweigh the benefits.

A 25p tax on recyclable paper cups, the most frequently suggested level, could result in just 5.7% of consumers switching to re-usable plastic cups or crockery with a greater number (8%) of consumers simply choosing not to make a purchase at all.

There are currently 4,000 paper cup recycling points across 92% of UK local authorities. The PCA believes that this number must be increased with waste management companies and
local councils putting better infrastructure to get recyclable paper cups from the bin to the recycling plant.

Mike Turner, spokesperson for the Paper Cup Alliance, said: ‘This research should come as a sharp wake up call to policymakers and politicians calling for a latte levy.

‘More can and should be done to increase paper cup recycling rates, but this needs to be balanced against the devastating impact that a 25p tax could have for thousands of people working in the British cup manufacturing industry, the towns they are based in, and the wider supply chain.’

The PCA has launched a five-point industry action plan:

• Boost the number of cups recycled to 85% by 2030, a target in line with other
recyclable paper products.
• Effective collection – increase the number of bins in public places from high streets to
stadiums, transport hubs to music festivals.
• Effective sorting – consistent standardised approach across waste management
companies and local authorities on separating recyclable materials and transporting
them to recycling plants.
• Consistent labelling – clear information for the consumer on how and where paper
cups are recycled, from public places to collection outside their front door.
• Campaign to raise awareness that paper cups are 100% recyclable.

Chris Stemman, executive director of the British Coffee Association, said: ‘The Paper Cup Alliance’s report is cause for concern and highlights again that just because policies such as the 5p carrier bag charge have been associated with some positive impacts in reducing plastic bag use, it does not mean that this will necessarily happen in other areas such as paper cups.’

Writing in Environment Journal in March, Ecoffee Cup founder, David McClagan, called on the Government to introduce a latte levy. He said: ‘We don’t want something that is unduly detrimental to the cafe industry in terms of jobs and profitability. However, we have seen that a tax can and does work when it comes to changing mindset, so it’s a real pity the government is questioning the initiative.

‘With awareness growing in the past months, sales of reusable products on the up, businesses vowing to ditch plastic, and consumers admitting they are willing to make changes – three-quarters of Brits would support a charge on coffee cups according to the Marine Conservation Society. It is time for the government to take action.’

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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