Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

Is Coffee About To Get More Expensive?

Illustration by Austin Watts
Britain is being forced to confront yet another public waste scandal, as outrage has followed news announcing that over 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year, of which only around 1% are actually recycled.

After news of the wastage broke earlier this week, a minister named Rory Stewart made a comment in the House of Commons about the possibility of imposing a new tax on coffee cups.

Rumours began to fly that a hefty cappuccino VAT was going to be introduced nationwide.
Metro ran the headline, ""Coffee cup tax could be next, warns minister."

The Government has since confirmed that this is not the case. According to the Telegraph, leadership currently has "no plans" to introduce a takeaway coffee cup tax, although that doesn't rule it out altogether.

The main problem with coffee cups is that, while they might be made of paper, they're usually lined with a plastic coating in order to make them watertight. Separating this coating from the paper is necessary to the recycling process, but it's tricky to do, says Mr Stewart, and there are only two facilities in the UK equipped to do this, reports the BBC.

Mr Steward compared the situation to that of carrier bags, in terms of potential environmental damage: "Having tackled plastic bags, which I hope everybody in the House would agree the plastic bag tax has been a success, coffee cups seem to be a very good thing to look at next."

It's looking like – despite the panic in the press – coffee cup tax is a way off, but in the mean time, it surely falls on coffee chains to find a solution to the problem. Many chains incentivise customers to bring in recyclable cups for a discount, but there can be no doubt that more needs to be done about the crisis to reduce waste in the long term.