Every year, 2.5 billion disposable paper coffee cups are thrown away in Britain alone, and more than 99 percent of them are not recycled. As the number of coffee drinkers grows, the amount of waste generated by used coffee cups is expected to increase dramatically, and now Britain is considering a significant tax on coffee cups in an attempt to reduce waste and get people to opt for reusable cups instead.
According to the New York Times, a parliamentary report from the House of Commons has recommended a tax of 25 pence, or 34 cents, on all disposable coffee cups sold. That’s a huge markup on a product that is already pretty expensive, and it’s designed to be big enough to make people actually carry reusable cups. A five-cent tax might make people complain, but a 34-cent tax might make them actually change their habits.
A big part of the problem with the coffee cups is that most of them are not recyclable. Most paper coffee cups are coated with a thin layer of plastic, and the vast majority of recycling operations are not equipped to remove that layer and recycle it and the paper. Also, most facilities won’t recycle paper that has come into contact with food.
According to the report from the House of Commons Environmental Action Committee, many people mistakenly think the cups are recyclable or biodegradable, but in fact only one in 400 cups is recycled.
That means 99.75 percent of the 2.5 billion cups discarded annually in Britain wind up in landfills, or burned in incinerators.
Taxes like the proposed “latte levy” have been effective at curbing waste before. Britain charges five pence for a plastic bag at a store, and the use of plastic bags has dropped 80 percent since the tax was introduced in 2015. The 2.5 billion cups disposed annually could wrap around the world five times, and that's just in Britain. Here are 10 mind-blowing facts about food waste in America.