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Debate on plastic bottles and coffee cups, House of Commons, 26 April 2018

Waste and recycling are among the most valued services any council provides. They are used by all council taxpayers and represent the third biggest spend item in a council’s budget. A doubling of spend by councils to £3.28 billion has seen recycling rates improve 400 per cent in the last decade.

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Key messages

  • It is positive that 98 per cent of local authorities currently provide a kerbside collection scheme, which includes plastic bottles. Over half of all councils also provide drop-off points for plastics. Despite these services, only fifty-seven per cent of all plastic bottles consumed in this country are recycled.
  • We support the Government’s ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste. Its recent initiatives, including the announcement of a deposit return scheme, are positive.iv If the proposals are to be a success, they must work alongside kerbside recycling and not be seen as an alternative to it.
  • Disposable coffee cups have a recycling rate of less than one per cent in the UK.  Most cups have a plastic coating that must be separated from paper before recycling, which ordinary recycling systems cannot do. A large number of discarded coffee cups end up in landfill, creating an estimated 25,000 tonnes of waste.
  • Dealing with non-recyclable coffee cup waste is a significant extra cost to councils. Taxpayers are currently funding around 90 per cent of the costs of packaging waste disposal. Councils would like to see producers and retailers take greater responsibility for the design of packaging, for example by funding recycling and increasing the recyclable content in coffee cups.
  • Some councils are working with charities to pilot schemes to reduce coffee cup waste on-the-go. Initial trials of these schemes have proved successful. Producers and retailers should be encouraged to join localised waste reductions schemes across the country.

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Debate on plastic bottles and coffee cups, House of Commons, 26 April 2018