Latte Levy : The UK 25p tax on Disposable Coffee Cups



If you don’t know that disposable cups made from plastic, styrofoam and the various smoothie cups are one of many enemy’s creating a mountain of waste, I’m not sure where you have been!

According to the Independent, approximately 25 billion disposable cups are chucked away in a year in the UK alone. After one single use these disposable cups are binned and end up in landfill to slowly decompose over several decades! On top of this, the toxins from the plastic slowly leach into our environment often ending up in waterways which in turn pollute marine life.

Is it just me or is this insane and common sense gone terribly wrong?

25 billion in one country alone is as astonishing horrifying number, but sadly pretty realistic when you realize your own takeaway coffee count and times that by the entire UK population per year!

The most obvious way to solve this issue is to take your own coffee cup or water bottle with you at all time and forgo the disposable cup. Sadly however, this appears to be too difficult a solution for the majority.

As a result, MP’s from The Environmental Audit Committee are pushing the UK Government to introduce a ‘latte levy’ where a 25p charge is added onto every takeaway cup used in the UK, with the proposal addressed last Friday.

Since learning about this tax I am in some ways thrilled this is (finally) happening but on the other hand feel it is so late and I for one am a bit sceptical this won’t make much difference.

Laura Foster from the Marine Conservation Society argues the charge would be similar to the successful 5p plastic bag initiative introduce in 2015 and would essentially make consumers think about taking a refillable cup to the café.

I feel the best thing (and maybe most obvious) the government can do is completely ban all disposable cups (and plastic bags on that thought) from existence and force consumers to BYO, force manufacturers to rethink their design and materials used and coffee shops to act quickly.

This drastic change will be welcomed and completely change the way consumers think about plastic disposable items.

Questions >>>


What! I thought Disposable coffee cups are recyclable?

Nope they are not :(

The plastic lining inside the cup making it waterproof are expensive to recycle; this lining needs to be removed before the paper part can be recycled. In the UK, there are only 3 facilities able to split the paper and plastic, therefore the majority are not recycled by instead sent to landfill.

Alongside the Latte Levy initiative, there is another proposition forcing cafes that do not recycle in store to be labelled as ‘’not widely recycled’’ to improve overall consumer awareness about the wider issue at hand.

Disposable Coffee Cups Trash everyday / Photography by Leni J 

Disposable Coffee Cups Trash everyday / Photography by Leni J 

What happens to the disposable cups that you chuck in the bin?

Almost all are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill to live several decades before very very slowly starting to break down.

Leading academic professor of materials resources engineering at Imperial College London, Chris Cheeseman, warns that the thin plastic polyethylene membrane used for the lining of disposable cups supplied to coffee chains could be resistant to degradation and may take around 30 years to break down.

China has been the largest importer of foreign recyclable and solid waste including disposable cups across the world, taking in 30 million metric tonnes of waste from the likes of US, EU including the UK, Japan and Australia. Yikes!

In a major blow, China has decided to ban 24 categories of certain waste product in order to help the environment and the public health and this has been put into action as of 1st January 2018. China’s ‘’Green Sword’’

This is set to hit all countries hard and a realization that a reuse and recycling movement will have to happen sooner than expected.     

Ironically China is also the biggest manufacturer of virgin plastic material being sold outside to business, so we will watch and see how this impacts their manufacturers on sourcing and designing sustainable options to all combat plastic products.  

What is the 25p for exactly?

According to researchers at Cardiff Uni, charging 25p for every disposable cup used by a consumer would help cut numbers used by up to 300 million every year!

The committee states the funds generated will be collected and managed by a central body to fund more recycling services. MP’s state this cost will decrease as the recycling rate will improve each year.  

Aren’t there already discounts on bringing your own cup?

Yep many coffee shops in Australia offer a 50c discount when you bring your own reusable cup.

Critics (and companies themselves) believe these discounts are not doing enough to encourage consumers to cut down on their waste.

Pret A Manger in the UK announced earlier this month, it would double their discount to 50pence in their efforts in reducing waste.

Starbucks already trialed the 50p discount in 2016 for customers using reusable cups but states it did not shift any big change in the way they had expected, only 1.8% (Jan 2018) of their customers use reusable cups.

And I somewhat agree with this statement. Consumers do not seem phased (or understand?) the detrimental impact a single disposable cup is having on the environment.  

The only way an actual positive impact will work is banning disposable cups altogether. 

What about the Future?

This positive change in the UK Latte Levy will have to be analysed over the next years.

A ban would be welcomed but manufacturers will also need to source reusable cups 100% renewable paper cups to deal with this issue.

The most obvious thing is taking a reusable coffee cup, flask or even a mug from your home if you don’t have the funds right now.

There are innovations in Plant based PE coatings from companies such as Huhtamaki Future SmartTM as well as amazing reusable cups from Joco Cups and KeepCup or Flasks from Frank Green that would change cut your disposable cup usage drastically.

Following the Latte Levy, the UK parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee recommends banning disposable coffee cups if they are not recyclable by 2023. Hooray!

What if I forget my Cup and I am desperate for a Coffee?

1.       Choose a coffee shop that lets you borrow a mug and then return it the next day – it’s all about trust people! They will be the ones that are thinking of the future so also positive to support these hard working guys!

2.       Borrow a mug from work, take it to the coffee shop - simples.

3.       Go Topless – If all else fails, at least refuse the lid of your disposable cup, some paper cups are now fully recyclable and do not have the finishes on the surface that would otherwise make the cup non-recyclable. And at least you are saving the plastic.

4.       Ask questions and find out more – you never know the clever innovative ways that pop up never!

Our favourite reusable cups and flasks?

I am obsessed with my reusable coffee cups, I feel terrible when I forget it and in most cases don’t get a coffee because of my forgetfulness and the guilt.

Here are my top picks and fave colours to start 2018 right;


1. Claycup makes stunning reusable ceramic coffee in a range of natural earthy tones that can be used with a lid and without as a normal cup.

2. My Joco cups are our go to when I leave the house every morning for work. They come in amazing pop colours and I have a beautiful Pink Sea Glass and a Black. The Seaglass collection is dedicated to the conservation of waterways and coasts plastic free. The JOCO cup is made from high quality, non-porous borosilicate glass and the silicone lid and band are free from harmful chemicals including BPA, lead and cadmium.

3. Keepcups underlying mission is to encourage use of reusable cups and by designing a rainbow of colours, prints and ranges to suits every personality. The cups come in all standard takeaway cup sizes so make it easy for beginners to switch over from disposable to reusable.

4. I was given a kitchy kale coloured flask by my younger brother for Christmas a few years back. I did not know at the time but this was an amazing gift, and I have used it on several occasion; camping, setting up markets in the early hour of the morning and road trips. I love the simplicity of the Klean Kanteen Matte Black stainless steel, BPA-free reusable Flask and they have some pretty cool colours and styles to choose from.

5. I have only recently been introduced to the wonders of Earth Bottle, like all flasks, the insulated stainless steel bottle keeps your coffees hot for up to 12 hours and your bottled water cold for up to 24 hours. But the magic is the similar, sleek design that does not scream old man flask.

6. The Frank Green’s Smartcup is an award winning reusable cup ‘designed for humanity’. The visually clean, minimal form and stunning design fused with sustainability at the heart of its sole purpose wins our vote.  We love that you can tailor the cup, lid and button colour to fit your personality.    .

7. Stojo previously known as Smashcup, is an innovative take on the usual bulky reusable coffee cup; this cup quickly collapses flat so can be stowed away small in your bag and out of the way. Pretty clever!

8. I have only just come across Just Swap It, a German company but I am in love. These reusable cups are made from bamboo and corn starch, both renewable raw materials that cultivate quickly without use of pesticides and have a simple, functional but cool in your face design. The message to Just Swap your disposable cup to reusable is clever and straight to the point.

What else can I change?

Just have a look at your weekly habits and what you are chucking away after a single use. From disposable straws, cutlery, plastic bottles and plastic bags, it’s horrifying when you realise where they end up after very minimal usage time. There are so many options out there to use instead and I am posting about these in depth in the next few weeks. 

But to start check out our Blog Post -

In some ways, the recent Latte Levy proposal is better late than never, but similarly, will it actually have a big enough impact in the UK?

This habit needs to be broken and this issue must be resolved urgently.

Richard Kikman, the UK and Ireland chief technology and innovation office for Veolia statement is right on point ‘’ Consumers need to take responsibility.’’

Equally manufacturers and coffee shops need to take responsibility for the full supply chain to educate and make changes in infrastructure, technology, sourcing, purchasing to make the right, sustainable choices.

I believe new materials should not be coming straight from the earth as this is not sustainable. As we have such an influx of plastic waste, isn’t it obvious to use recycled materials? The main focus should be on producing recyclable or reusable product over the next few years.  

This problem has been going for years and I sometimes feel like screaming ‘’Take your own frigging cup! Stop being Lazy! Stop wrecking the environment!!! ’’

But I won’t I promise :)

What do you think? Comment on your pro and cons and your own habits?


*Based on a small latte from Costa Coffee as off February 2017