“Fantastic” bag tax results put cups in spotlight

England is using six billion fewer single use plastic bags since the introduction of a 5p charge.

Data published by Defra over the weekend shows that over 7 billion carrier bags were issued by seven main retailers in 2014. But in the six months since the levy was introduced (in October 2015) consumption has fallen to just over 500m.

In all, 285 retailers registered and reported data. Some £29m has been raised for “good causes” from the charge, Defra noted.

“Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us,” said environment minister Thérèse Coffey. But she warned against complacency. “[…] there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”

Indeed, the question now is: what next? Paper cups would be the betting man’s choice given that 2.5 billion are used every year and recycling them is proving extremely difficult.

Just last week, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall put single use cups firmly in the spotlight. In the latest episode of his BBC One series “War on Waste”, the chef turned campaigner heavily criticised Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero for the environmental claims they make in relation to the cups they use.

“In every meaningful sense, conventional paper coffee cups are not recyclable in Britain,” he said. “There is nothing, of course, on the average takeout cup to let you know this.”

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