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Coffee shops will have to set out the cost of coffee as well as the additional charges for the cup. Shutterstock/Boumen Japet

Coffee cups to be hit with levy of up to 25 cent under new plastic crackdown plans

A levy on fast-food takeaway containers is also on the way.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Nov 2019

SINGLE-USE COFFEE cups are to be hit with a levy of up to 25 cent under new government plans to tackle plastic waste. 

While the exact figure will be determined following market research, it’s likely to be 10c, 15c or 25c. 

In a bid to reduce Ireland’s plastic waste, the government has today announced a number of measures to change consumer and business behaviour. 

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton today announces a number of proposed environmental levies to encourage more sustainable behaviour

While there was some speculation that the ‘latte levy’ idea was due to be scrapped because the threat of such a tax had prompted coffee shops to switch to more sustainable products, the government has today indicated that it is still very much on the cards.

On the introduction of a coffee cup levy, the minister said it “has clear benefits for the environment, when you consider that 22,000 disposable coffee and tea cups are used every hour. Our first response must be to reduce the amount of waste created in the first place”.

“The coffee cup levy should also lead to savings for consumers who make the switch, as well as savings for retailers who have to carry less disposable stock. In introducing a coffee cup levy, clear pricing information will be vital. Clear information regarding price will be important in driving change,” he said.

The minister said shops will have to display pricing information so that their customers have all the information on what they will have to pay. Coffee shops will have to set out the price of coffee alone (this price would be of use to people who have their own Keep Cup).

Additional charges on top of the price of coffee would also have to be displayed, such as the added charge for using a single-use cup (which would include the price of the disposable cup and the levy).

These changes, which will now be put out to public consultation, also include an increase to the existing plastic bag levy from the current rate of 22c to 25c, as well as expanding the plastic bag levy to include medium weight plastic bags.

‘Bag for life’ bags will remain exempt.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1, Bruton described coffee cups as the “most obvious” way to get consumers to cut down on single-use disposables.

He also confirmed that the levy would target all coffee cups, including those that are disposable, and not just those that are recyclable.

“There’s no doubt that some cups can be, as they say, compostable and that if they made their way into the brown bin waste stream, they could be handled in a different way,” he said.

“The difficulty is we do not have the infrastructure in the retail sector to ensure that those compostable cups are making their way [into the brown bin stream].”

Levy on takeaway containers

It is also proposed to develop a second phase of levies will come into effect from 2022.

During this phase, the focus will be on take away containers.

shutterstock_772806037 Shutterstock / guruXOX Shutterstock / guruXOX / guruXOX

The third phase of levies will address food packaging in retail outlets and supermarkets, including for bakery items, fruit, vegetables etc.

This follows on from the minister telling this year that he is in favour of “naming and shaming” supermarkets who do not step up to tackle their plastic packaging waste. 

The exact scope and rate of such levies being placed on the big players is to be developed, but these items will also be included in the consultation being announced today.

In addition to today’s announcement on a coffee cup levy, further measures are targeted at retailers.

A Waste Recovery Levy of €5 a tonne will apply to the three key waste recovery options – landfill, incineration and export, while an increase to the Landfill Levy by €5 per tonne to €80 per tonne is also being proposed.

These initiatives are to encourage retailers to reduce the weight of their waste, or else they will end up paying more.

All revenue raised from these measures is due to go into the Environment Fund and be reinvested in environmental actions, such as tackling waste blackspots and litter community programmes such as the National Spring Clean initiative, Tidy Towns and the development of community areas and gardens. 

The fund, which is already in existence, is currently supported by levies on plastic bags and landfill waste.

Since its inception in 2001, it has collected in excess of €830 million (to December 2018).

“Climate disruption is the biggest challenge facing this generation. A tonne of food wasted or single use packaging tipped into a landfill, results in the six tonnes of carbon which it took to make that food or packaging, completely lost to the world. Even if such waste is not avoided, residual waste could be halved if businesses and homes put things in the right bin.

“These changes, we hope, will make people more conscious of this and will encourage people to make small changes such as bringing their own bags shopping, or their own cup when going for a coffee, that can make a difference. All of the funds collected will go back into environmental action. Industry too will be expected to make changes and we will be designing levies on food packaging and takeaway containers,” said Bruton.

The consultation on all the proposals is open from today and will remain open until 20 December 2019. 

“How we use and dispose of our resources is crucial – in fact it accounts for 60% of our emissions. We must be more conscious of the impact we are having by the daily choices we make,” said Bruton.

With reporting from Stephen McDermott.

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