Starbucks introduces 5p paper cup charge in UK stores

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
There was a 126% uplift in the use of recyclable cups during the London trial

Coffee chain Starbucks has announced it will roll out a 5p paper cup charge across its 950 UK stores.

Though rejected by government, Starbucks decided to introduce a latte levy after a three-month London trial showed a 126% uplift in the use of recyclable cups.

Starbucks customers are offered a 25p discount on drinks if they bring their own cup.

Environmental charity Hubbub, which worked with Starbucks on the trial, compiled a report on the findings, showing the percentage of customers who brought their own cup increased from 2.2 to 5.8 during the trial.

Mornings saw the highest volume of customers going reusable, with 8% of hot drinks served in reusable mugs or tumblers.

The original Environment Audit Committee report on coffee cups stated money raised from the charge on paper cups should be used to improve the UK’s recycling infrastructure and facilities.

Starbucks said funds raised from the charge will continue to support recycling and sustainability efforts with Hubbub.

Martin Brok, president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We saw encouraging results from the first three months of this trial with Hubbub, and what stood out to us was the positive response we had from our partners (employees) and customers who continue to push us to innovate and find ways to reduce waste.

“Extending this to all our stores across Britain is an exciting step and we’re hoping this charge will remind customers to rethink their use of single-use plastic as it has with plastic bags.”

The charge will come into place on 26 July.

Chris Sherrington, head of environmental policy & economics at Eunomia, said the charge has the potential to confuse the public.

He said: "An across the board tax of 25p covering all takeaway cups used to serve hot and cold drinks would be much simpler for consumers and it would deliver a much greater shift to reusables than different retailers running their individual schemes that apply only to specific types of drink."

Sherrington also raised concerns over where the money from the charge will go, preferring a taxation method.

He added: "A tax would avoid risks that funds disbursed by retailers displace CSR spending, and lead to undue influence over recipients, who themselves might become overly dependent upon the proceeds of the charge, potentially limiting their support for greater ambition in respect of waste and litter prevention. Revenues from a tax could be used to offset other taxes, such as those on employment.”

Earlier this week, Starbucks announced plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws globally by 2020 and replace with a strawless lid on all iced coffee, tea and espresso.

It will also introduce straws from alternative materials such as paper or PLA compostable plastic for Frappuccino blended beverages or customers who prefer or need a straw.

The brand has also committed $10m (£7m) to develop a fully recyclable and compostable hot cup.

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