The Irish government is reported to be considering a 25 cents (€0.25) tax on single-use, takeaway coffee cups.
It is estimated that up to 2 million coffee cups are thrown away across Ireland every day.
At the same time, the government is also said to be discussing imposing a 25 cents charge on plastic shopping bags, up from the current 22 cents. Other points include charges for takeaway food containers (from 2022) and future regulations related to supermarket packaging.
In Ireland, the coffee cup charge would apply to all takeaway products, whether they were labelled as recyclable or compostable.
Takeaway coffee cups are particularly difficult to recycle, as they combine paper and cardboard with a polythene lining. The plastic top also has to be considered.
Figures from the UK show that just 1% of the 7m cups thrown away each day (about 2.5bn each year) are recycled. This is due to the physical makeup and also the liquid contamination, which means the cups can only be processed at one of three sites in the UK.
Earlier this year the UK government carried out a review looking at the benefits of imposing a similar 25p charge for takeaway hot drink cups.
The idea was dropped, in large part due to lobbying from coffee chains, such as Costa Coffee. The coffee retailers put forward that there was no proof a tax - or ‘latte levy’ - would improve recycling figures, while it would also deliberately target coffee drinkers.
The lobbying by coffee retailers against the tax was uncovered following a freedom of information request by Greenpeace.
MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee had recommended the charge be brought in to try and reduce the number of cups being used.
Back in Ireland, the plan is to change customer behaviour through financial incentives, together with promoting reusable cups and also highlighting the environmental impact of single-use cups.
In some cities, such as New York, customers using a reusable cup can get their drink for a reduced price. The reusable cup can also get you into a ‘fast track’ serving line.
The Republic of Ireland was one of the first countries to introduce a charge for plastic bags in 2002. Revenue from bag sales contributes to a national Environment Fund.