Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups and Plastic Bottles inquiry launched

14 September 2017

The Environmental Audit Committee is relaunching its predecessor’s inquiry into Disposable Coffee Cups and Plastic Bottles. The previous Committee’s inquiry received over 100 submissions of evidence. The General Election was called before the Committee could complete its inquiry.

Coffee Cups

The UK throws away approximately 2.5 billion coffee cups every year, of which less than 1 in 400 are recycled. To make coffee cups waterproof the card is fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot be separated out again in standard UK recycling mills. This coating makes both composting and recycling of paper cups uncommon and there are only two sites in the UK that have the capacity to separate the plastic film from the paper, allowing recovery and recycling into new paper products.

Plastic Bottles

Only 57% of all plastic bottles are recycled. The Scottish government has already commissioned a detailed study into a deposit return scheme (DRS) and on the 5th September the First Minister confirmed that Scotland would be introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers. The design for Scotland’s new system has yet to be finalised.

The new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said a DRS would be a “great idea”, but said that it is important to make sure it would work properly before guaranteeing its implementation.

Other countries such as Germany, Norway and Sweden already have Deposit Return Schemes in place. The German deposit scheme cost around three times as much per container as household-based collection systems and Germany recycled over 90% of its PET bottles in 2015.

Written Evidence

If you submitted evidence to the previous Committee's inquiry you do not need to resubmit your evidence.

The Committee will be accepting written submissions from those who did not submit earlier in the year or who wish to update their evidence in the light of subsequent events.

Please send written submissions using the form on the Disposable Coffee Cups and Plastic Bottles inquiry page.

Submissions should be made by 5 pm on Friday, 29 September. Late submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to influence oral evidence hearings.

Submissions should address the following points:


  • What is the environmental impact of waste from coffee cups and plastic bottles? Are the rates of use, collection levels and recycling levels of these products increasing or decreasing over time?
  • What are the challenges of recycling these products? What obstacles have prevented greater progress in increasing recycling rates?


  • Are consumers aware of the complexities of recycling these products? How could we increase awareness amongst the public and what impact would this have?
  • What actions are being undertaken by retailers and industry to reduce waste generated by coffee cups and plastic bottles? How effective have these initiatives been? How could the Government better support these initiatives?
  • How effective, to date, have Government and local government led initiatives (such as #1MoreShot) been at reducing waste and increasing the recycling of coffee cups and plastic bottles? What progress has been made to develop a viable, recyclable alternative to the polyethylene coated paper cup? What are the pros and cons of the use of such cups?
  • What is the likely impact of leaving the EU on UK efforts to reduce coffee cup and plastic bottle waste?


  • What initiatives could be utilised to reduce coffee cup and plastic bottle waste or to lessen the impact of this waste? In particular what are the opportunities and risks associated with:
    — Incentives to encourage the use of re-usable alternatives for these products.
    — Charge, taxes, deposits or levies on the use of these products.
  • How can we encourage households, businesses, food and drink outlets, and offices to change behaviours or introduce policies to reduce their coffee cup and plastic bottle waste?
  • How are other countries working to reduce coffee cup and plastic bottle waste? What examples of best practice are there that the UK could learn from?

Further information

Image: Public domain

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