Is It To-Go Cups’ Time To Go?

The convenience of a disposable cup is so enticing that even environmentally conscious people sometimes canít resist. That doesnít make it a good idea for our planet, however. Thatís why the United Kingdom is currently considering instituting a “latte levy” Ė a 35-cent tax on every one-time-use cup purchased by beverage drinkers.

The idea for a cup tax follows in the footsteps of the plastic bag tax, which was also considered a terrible inconvenience at its inception. Since then, consumers adjusted their behaviors and began bringing reusable bags while shopping. In the UK, this step resulted in an 80 percent reduction in plastic bags in just a couple short years.

Coffee shops in the UK have increased fourfold since the turn of the millennium, meaning the number of cups has shot up wildly, too. Experts estimate Brits throw out about two and a half billion such cups annually now, creating a lot of unnecessary waste considering that most people already own mugs.

You may be wondering, arenít coffee cups recyclable? It would seem that alone would make it a lower priority to target, but the problem is that being recyclable and actually getting recycled are two different things. Appallingly, less than one percent of these cups get recycled.

Not all of the blame belongs on the consumers, however. Part of the problem is that disposable cups are lined internally with plastic and itís so difficult to separate the plastic and paper components that most recycling centers canít handle that process. As such, a lot of the cups that people place into recycling bins still wind up in landfills.

For that reason, the UKís focus is on taking disposable cups out of the waste stream from the start. While some coffee shops already offer a discount to customers who bring their own mugs, itís not taken advantage of at a meaningful level.

Human psychology explains why that occurs: whereas a discount is considered a perk that can be squandered without guilt, something like the latte levy feels like a penalty that ought to be avoided. Simply put, people are more motivated by a fine then a rebate, which is why some British legislators think the levy is the way to go.

The countryís Environmental Audit Committee has suggested an ambitious additional challenge: By 2023, ensure that all of the UKís disposable cups are being recycled. If theyíre not, the committee proposes banning the cups entirely.

Itís a drastic step, but following the plastic bag tax, thereís no denying how successful it may be. A mild inconvenience in the short term can inspire a permanent behavior change in beverage drinkers, and the planet will be a better place for it.

In the meantime, if you do find yourself in a situation where you accept a one-time-use coffee cop, Care2 has nine suggestions on how you can repurpose the container without all the guilt.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Sonia M

Thanks for sharing.

Paulo R
Paulo Reeson7 days ago

yes it is, ty


yes! bring your own from home or stop this bad environmental habit once and for all!

heather g
heather g16 days ago

It's a sad fact but many pop and coffee drinkers don't feel any guilt when they drop their used mugs along the path they walk.

Ingrid H
Ingrid H26 days ago

Thank you

Chrissie R
Chrissie R27 days ago


Ruth S
Ruth S27 days ago


Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O28 days ago

I am reading where many are allowed to use their own mugs but just as many 'due to health regulations' are not. In those situations I would still bring my cup and if I needed a take-away just pour it from their cup into my mug. There needs to be a huge tax placed on companies who line these containers with plastic that is dangerous to humans, whether in cups or cans...It makes recycling almost impossible and the costs of being able to recycle them is outstripped by the cost. So the companies best come up with something better. Heck they have in Rwanda and it is working now for 10 years being totally plastic free!

Winn A
Winn A28 days ago


Winn A
Winn A28 days ago