The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into the environmental impact of drinks packaging including plastic bottles and single-use coffee cups.
The inquiry, which was announced on Saturday (4 March), will examine the challenges in collecting and recycling these products and what obstacles exist that might prevent greater recycling. This will include scrutiny of the potential for deposit return schemes to increase the capture of bottles.
MPs will consider methods of increasing the capture of plastic bottle for recycling.
Announcing the probe the Committee’s chair, Mary Creagh, the Labour MP for Wakefield, said: “Our throwaway society has given us a tide of litter on our beaches, dead seabirds and fish, and plastic in our food. We all enjoy a takeaway coffee or tea, but the cups they are served in are particularly difficult to recycle because they combine plastic coating and cardboard. Our inquiry will be taking a serious look at solutions like the use of different materials, better recycling and bottle deposit return schemes.”
According to the Committee, plastic bottles and coffee cups have been targeted as they are ‘particularly problematic’.
The Committee has suggested that only around half of the 35 million plastic bottles sold in Britain every day are currently collected for recycling. Latest figures compiled by the plastics recycling body Recoup suggest that around 57% of plastic bottles are collected for recycling.
Focus on coffee cups comes after recent scrutiny over the use and recyclability of paper cups by the UK’s large coffee chains, which has highlighted the challenges in effectively collecting and recycling the products. According to the Environmental Audit Committee, around 7 million cardboard coffee cups are thrown away in the UK every day, with the equivalent of only 1 in 400 being recycled.
This is largely due to the need to make coffee cups waterproof, which sees the card fused with polyethylene, which is then difficult to separate once it reaches a recycling mill.
Television presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last year ran a campaign to highlight the wastage of coffee cups in the UK – leading to headlines that major coffee chains on UK high streets were misleading the public by claiming the cups could be recycled in the mixed paper stream.
However, recyclers have warned that increased efforts to recycle the estimated 2.5 billion cups that are discarded in the UK every year could lead to an increase in contamination in the paper and cardboard recycling streams.