Call to introduce a surcharge on single-use cups

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Every year, around 5 billion single-use paper cups are used in the UK’s coffee shops and takeaways. The vast majority contain a plastic lining which is tightly bonded to the paper, making the cup waterproof and able to hold liquid. 

Only 4% of these cups are captured for recycling with the remainder ending up in landfill, waste incinerators or in our countryside, rivers and oceans where the plastic lining can break down into micro-plastics affecting our precious wildlife and marine life and polluting our soils.

Additionally, single-use cups made entirely of plastic – often used for takeaway juices and smoothies - are also thought to be used in their billions each year.

In January 2018, the Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Mary Creagh MP, called on the UK government to introduce a 25p levy targeted at all single use coffee cups. Government subsequently refused to endorse this proposal and in October 2018, the Chancellor stated he would not be introducing a levy on any single use cups, claiming that it would not lead to a widespread shift to reusables.

Yet at the same time, a surcharge of 25p was introduced on single-use paper cups used for hot drinks sold in the Houses of Parliament. This has resulted in a massive 74% drop* in the use of paper cups, with no negative impact on overall sales.

We believe that the UK Parliament itself has now delivered compelling evidence that a charge on all single use cups can encourage consumers to switch to reusable alternatives.

The UK Government is now lagging behind the Scottish Government, who committed in principle to introducing a charge on single use cups in their 2018 budget. They have since received a report from an expert panel that recommends: applying a charge of at least 20p to 25p on every disposable cup; developing pilots to promote reusable cups; and banning polystyrene cups.

We urge the UK Chancellor to introduce a charge of at least 25p, with the proceeds used to support projects that help tackle the climate emergency and end waste for good.

This petition is supported by the following organisations: Keep Britain Tidy, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society, CPRE, Earthwatch Europe, Thames 21 and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland.