Poll: Scots would support charge on throw-away coffee cups

A total of 2.5bn disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK.
A total of 2.5bn disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK.
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Almost three quarters of people in Scotland would support a charge on single use coffee cups, a survey has found.

The poll by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) asked people if they would support paying a deposit on disposable coffee cups to encourage the use of refillable cups or cups being returned for recycling. Only eight per cent of people said they actively opposed such charges, while 72 per cent said they were in favour.

A total of 2.5bn disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK - 10,000 every two minutes.

However, the proportion of Scots who supported the idea of a charge was slightly lower than in the rest of the UK, where 74 per cent of people said they would be keen to see a charge introduced.

Last month, the Scottish Government said it is planning to introduce a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans, while the Environment Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, has said that the government would now be looking at other financial incentives to reduce waste.

Calum Duncan, head of conservation Scotland for MCS, said: “MCS wants to see a reduction in all litter items, particularly disposable single-use items like coffee cups, as there are so many easy alternatives. As the environmental toll of litter on our seas grows, we need progressive measures that discourage the throwaway mindset whilst encouraging simple positive actions like using re-fillable ‘on-the-go’ coffee cups and drinks bottles.”

The vast majority of throw-away coffee cups are almost impossible to recycle, as they contain polyethylene, a material used to make them waterproof - which is recycleable in only two specialist centres in the UK.

Stuart McMillan, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde and a supporter of MCS, said that that the success of the carrier bag charge over the past three years proves that a similar tax on single-use cups could be worthwhile.

He said: “As we look to move away from our throw-away culture which is, ultimately, not sustainable, I’m pleased that the Scottish Government is further investing in ways to tackle single-use products usage. Although we have made steady progress on recycling, the pace with which these improvements are happening must be increased.”

Earlier this year, scientists from Cardiff University said that a charge on disposable cups increased the use of re-usable coffee cups by 3.4 per cent. The study, which trialled different measures in a range of cafes, found that the provision of free re-usable alternatives combined with clear environmental messaging and a charge on disposable cups increased the use of reusable cups in one cafe from 5.1 per cent to 17.4 per cent. It said that it believed overall use could be reduced by 12.5 per cent - or 200 million cups a year.