Starbucks has become the first UK coffee chain to trial a “latte levy” on all disposable cups.

Customers will be charged an additional 5p on takeaway cups during the three month trial, affecting 35 branches in London from Monday.

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The “latte levy” is the first of its kind in Britain — and was launched alongside a study that found 48% of Starbucks customers said they would carry a reusable cup to avoid the 5p charge.

Read More: 9 Brilliant Ways the UK Is Cracking Down on Plastic Pollution

Starbucks already offers a 25p discount on any drink if you bring in your own cup. Costa Coffee offers the same, and Pret a Manger has doubled it to a 50p discount. Starbucks initially increased the discount to 50p in 2016 too, but reverted back to 25p after a slow response.

Net proceeds from the levy will go to environmental charity Hubbub, which said that its research proves a charge is more effective than a discount. One particular example of success is England’s plastic bag tax, which saw an 83% reduction in plastic bag use within a year — the equivalent of 9 billion fewer bags — after it was introduced in October 2015.

“We’re hoping that this charge will remind customers to rethink their use of single-use plastic-lined cups, as it has with plastic bags,” said Simon Redfern, Starbucks Europe’s , vice-president of communications. “We’ve offered a reusable cup discount for 20 years, with only 1.8% of customers currently taking up this offer, so we’re really interested in working with Hubbub to see how this charge could help to change behaviour and help to reduce waste.”

Read More: BBC to Eliminate All Single-Use Plastics By 2020

Coffee cups are far harder to recycle than people think.

The UK uses and throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year, but less than 0.25% are recycled. A report from the environment audit committee in January found that just one in 400 cups are recycled, amassing over 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste every year. It’s so difficult because each cup contains a tightly bonded polyethylene liner, according to the Guardian, that paper mills don’t currently accept.

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In simpler terms: that paper cup you think you’re recycling is actually a plastic cup in disguise — and half a million of them are littered across Britain every day.

In response to the report, MPs called for a 25p charge on all disposable coffee cups — and a total ban within five years if targets are missed. They also recommended improved labelling and for coffee chains to pay more for cup disposal.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a 25-year “global gold standard” plan in January to eradicate all “avoidable” plastics by 2042. Environment secretary Michael Gove has already banned microbeads and extended the 5p plastic bag tax to encompass all retailers — rather than just those with more than 250 employees.

Starbucks’ decision is symbolic of the building commercial and political momentum against plastic waste in 2018, and it could lead the way for other retailers. But it’s still short of what was demanded in the report demanding a 25p charge — so perhaps let’s call it a grande change, just shy of venti.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.12 for responsible production and consumption. Take action with us here.


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This Coffee Chain Is the First in the UK to Charge a ‘Latte Levy’ for Disposable Cups

By James Hitchings-Hales