Waitrose becomes latest firm to ditch disposable cups to reduce plastic waste

In lieu of our problematic love-hate relationship with plastic, and the government’s consideration of the ‘latte levy’, Waitrose has decided to do away with all of its coffee cups. From autumn 2018, all Waitrose stores will no longer provide disposable cups to loyalty card holders at checkouts.

The chain will be trialling the system on 30 April in nine Waitrose stores across the country. Customers will be required to bring in their own reusable cup if they want to take advantage of Waitrose’s free self-service coffee machines. The branches, of varying sizes, are based in Banbury, Billericay, Ipswich, Newmarket, Norwich, Sudbury, Wymondham, Upminster and Little Waitrose, Fitzroy Street.

According to Waitrose, 52 million disposable cups are used every single year. The cups, which have a plastic lining, aren’t fully-recyclable.

 “We looked at compostable cups carefully and there are currently only a small number of sites in the UK able to process industrially compostable coffee cups. They’re not home compostable,” the supermarket chain wrote. “The need for all the cups to be transported across the country to these sites means we don’t think it’s currently an environmentally sustainable solution. The cups plant-based coating and lid means if they are placed in normal recycling, they would act as a contaminant. We believe that removing disposable cups altogether is more effective for the environment.”

The move comes as the government considers a 25p ‘latte levy’ proposal made by the Environmental Audit Committee. It would be a charge similar to the plastic bag levy introduced in UK stores back in 2014. Currently, the proposal is facing staunch opposition from ministers in government who think that shops should provide voluntary discounts to people who bring in their own cups, rather than enforcing a levy.

Last month, in an effort to encourage plastic bottle re-use, the mayor of London pledged to place twenty new water drinking fountains across the capital by the end of the year. The first of these has already been placed just off Carnaby Street.

We currently throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year in the UK, and less than 1 in 400 of these cups are recycled. While some efforts, like the proposed plastic takeaway boxes levy are good first steps, we’re not really sure how Theresa May is going to eliminate all “avoidable” plastic by 2042 by just politely asking shops to provide discounts.  

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