Time for Wales to perk up with 'latte levy'

By Bleddyn Lake, Campaigns and Development Manager at Friends of the Earth Cymru

Friends of the Earth Cymru is calling for a charge on takeaway cups - sign the petition today!

If you are of a certain age, you might remember a TV advert from the nineties with a Welsh accented voice saying, “mini mega milky mocha”?

Well, things have progressed somewhat since those days!  Now we have a real taste for coffee and many of us rely on it every morning to perk us up for another day.

As many of us are aware, the rise in popularity of coffee and coffee shops has led to a massive explosion in the use of single use coffee cups.


The facts...


  • Around 237 million single-use coffee cups and 183 million coffee cup lids are used each year in Wales
  • 320 million other single-use cups are also consumed in Wales each year for drinks such as for smoothies, milkshakes, juices, etc.
  • That's 557 million takeaway cups!
  • And less than 1 in every 400 of these cups are actually being recycled.
  • If we put these 557 million cups end to end (assuming each cup is 10cm in length), they would form a chain around 55,700 kilometres long - THAT'S ENOUGH TO WRAP AROUND THE ENTIRE EARTH WITH ROOM TO SPARE!

Whilst takeaway cups can technically be recycled, the facilities to do so aren’t widely available, so most of them end up in bins or as litter. We know this because we can see them on virtually every road, in every ditch and hedge and river.

The Welsh Government have calculated that it costs around £70 million annually to clean up litter in Wales, a cost borne by tax payers. If anything, this is actually only a fraction of the true cost of litter in Wales. Litter probably costs Wales around £440 million every year according to the independent consultancy, Eunomia. ‘This reflects the size of the ‘welfare gain’ that would be achieved under a zero litter situation.’

Benefits of a 'latte levy' 

A trial conducted by Cardiff University in 2017 proved a small charge on these cups would massively reduce the huge piles of waste we create every year.

Eunomia estimate a 25p charge or tax on single use cups filled at the point of sale in Wales, together with a mandatory take back system in coffee shops, could reduce the numbers of these cups by around 30% and generate around £97m a year.  

Friends of the Earth Cymru would like to see the money being used to fund zero waste hubs in communities around Wales.

This would be a double win, or a Doppio if you prefer!

A charge or tax of 25p on every single use coffee cup for example would quickly add up to the cost of buying a reusable cup. A reusable cup can cost around £10, so if you buy a take away coffee once a day for say 5 days a week, you would start to be in profit very quickly by switching to a reuse cup and helping to save resources, energy and water.


Why now?


National governments around Britain are now working together on the issue of Extended Producer Responsibility (basically, the use of financial incentives to encourage manufacturers to design environmentally friendly products by holding producers responsible for the costs of managing their products at end of life), and other measures such as a Deposit Return Scheme for beverage containers, but it now looks like a tax or levy on single use drinks containers is not being considered by the UK Government.


How it could work


If a charge on takeaway cups is introduced, take back facilities for single-use cups should be mandatory for major retailers and exemptions considered for small retailers, especially those in busy areas who might therefore be likely to have lots of cups and lids returned to them.

Interestingly, smaller coffee shops would stand to benefit from more reusable cups being used as currently they are less likely to benefit from cost savings from bulk buying of single use cups.

Using the existing Waste Hierarchy regulations in Wales, it’s possible to stipulate that retailers have to provide the option of non single use beverage containers for customers who chose to consume the products on the premises (think large fast food outlets where you still get given single use cups even if you are eating and drinking on site).


Sign our petition today


Given that we have the power to introduce a 'latte levy' in Wales, we are calling for the Welsh Government to bring forward such a tax as soon as possible.

This is needed at a more espresso pace so we can start addressing this issue.

Wales is leading the way on waste issues, with high recycling rates and the introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2011.

Let’s perk up our action on single use plastics and move to a zero waste society. Don’t make a ‘Horlicks’ out of it! Sign our petition today



Bleddyn Lake is Campaigns and Development Manager at Friends of the Earth Cymru

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