Coffee shop businesses in Leamington believe the proposed ‘latte levy’ by the Government has the potential to have a good and bad impact.
Earlier this month MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee supported Liberal Democrat calls for action on the amount of non-recyclable disposal coffee cups with a new 25p tax on every cup.
And this would be felt significantly in Leamington, which has seen a huge rise in coffee shops - both independent and chain - over the past few years.
The idea has the backing of Louis Adam, the newly appointed prospective parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the Warwick and Leamington constituency.
He said: ““With the explosion in the number of coffee shops and cafes in Leamington, business for the town is up but we’re contributing to an environmental problem that needs a solution.
“More than seven million coffee cups are thrown away each day, most, even the cardboard cups, cannot be recycled because of the plastics in them.
“This levy shows that we can act to reduce our waste and find more sustainable solutions: in parliament, in our communities, and as individuals.’
“The tax will be used to pay for improvements in our recycling and reprocessing infrastructure.”
Some of the independent shops already adopt recyclable or compostable take-away receptacles.
Lydia Papaphilippopoulos-Snape, who owns Warwick Street Kitchen, uses compostable take-away cups, cutlery and boxes.
She said: “We use a brand called ‘Vegware’ and the products are not recyclable but compostable as you throw it all in the food waste and it is 100 per cent sustainable. My view is that we should be excluded from that levy as we are not using single-use cups. We don’t offer anything that is single-use plastic.
“If we had to charge 25p more I argue that we should be exempt as we are not part of the single-use plastic problem.
“I think compostable cups are the future but I think a lot of people aren’t doing it at the moment as it costs more.
“But I worked out is costs me around 0.05 pence more to use compostable cups but for the big companies they are buying in volumes but they can afford to buy the compostable ones and they should be pushed down this road instead of fuelling the recycling problem.
“If they use more recyclable ones we would need more recycling plants and so on. We should cut the problem off at the source and deal with the recycling problem.
“A lot of this is about awareness and I think people need to know there is another option. I think all the businesses in Leamington could get together here and do something about this.
“There is a big food waste issue and we are all throwing away a lot of food waste and it is expensive for us to pay for collecting. We should combine the two issues and all get together and organise a weekly or fortnightly collection and say to customers they can bring their cups back to us and we will compost it.
“The environment and the planet is as much a personal thing as it is a community thing so lets deal with it as a community.”
Henry Thomson, owner of Spa Town Coffee in Warwick Street, said: “Our takeaway cups are made from paper and have no plastic in them.
“I think there needs to be more thought on the levy. If it is a levy for non-recyclable cups it won’t affect us but if the levy is on just takeaway cups it will have an impact on business and we would have to take the hit.
“Our paper cups work well for us and I don’t see why the bigger chain can’t use them.”
When asked about Lydia’s idea for a united approach with compostable cups, Henry said: “The compostable cups is something we could do. Most of our takeaway drinks go to customers that come in regularly but it’s whether people want to walk around with a dirty coffee cup.
“I don’t think everyone will do that I think they would rather put it in a bin because sadly people want convenience.
“More needs to be done about educating people and raising awareness. The Government talking about the ‘latte levy’ has got people talking, which is only a good thing. It might cost businesses more but it is a good thing.”
Digby Platt, owner of Stonemonkey in Binswood Street, said: “We have always tried to be as environmentally friendly as we can and we always try to keep plastic to a minimum.
“In terms of the ‘latte levy’ I don’t think people will mind paying a bit more. It could have an impact but more people will just pay it if they want a coffee and then it just becomes a tax, but does it actually solve the issue?
“We use compostable cups. They cost us a little bit more but it all helps. We also have paper straws.
“The big chains like Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Costa, are the ones that need to do something as they are the ones who are going to make a big impact if they change their ways.
“They should move to compostable cups. If you look at the numbers that go through their doors they are going to have a bigger impact. If you went through the waste in Warwickshire the vast majority of coffee cups would be from these three companies. They are the ones that need to change and they are the ones that can afford to do it.
“Some products say they are recyclable but some councils don’t have the equipment to recycle them. You could buy something thinking you are doing the right thing but in Warwickshire it might not be able to be recycled.
“It is a bit of a minefield and it’s difficult to know what is the right way.”
When asked about Lydia’s united approach, Digby said: “It would be great to have all the independent coffee shops commit to that as it is a great message to the chains. There’s a real community between us and it might be a good thing for people to commit to.”
Coffee Architects on Warwick Street is also taking steps to reduce plastic.
Sam Avery, owner of Coffee Architects, said: “We are currently in the process of producing an eco cup and we have stopped using plastic bottles for our staff water and they now have filtered tap water like our customers.
“If people bring their own reusable coffee cup we offer 10 per cent discount.”
Some pubs and restaurants in the area have also been removing plastic straws. The White Horse pub and restaurant in Balsall Common is the latest to swap plastic for paper with biodegradable paper products.