Takeaway coffee cups: Exploring Ireland’s latte levy

Josephine Walbank
March 11, 2022
latte takeaway cups

As governments around the world increasingly search for ways to curtail plastic use, Ireland’s “latte levy” has emerged as a potential solution.

Described as a “tax” on coffees to go, it could see around a quarter of a million disposable coffee cups diverted from landfills every day.

Coupled with the current plastic carrier bag levy, this could have a significant impact on the single-use plastic crisis. A number of recent studies show Europeans are willing to accept these eco-conscious charges – indeed, UK consumers substantially reduced their plastic bag usage within one month after the tax was introduced.

If the latte levy proves to be a success in Ireland, other countries could implement similar schemes. Therefore, roasters and cafe owners must be prepared to make significant changes to their takeaway coffee offerings, which may include switching to more sustainable alternatives.

Read on to explore Ireland’s latte levy and discover what it could mean for the coffee sector.

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latte levy

What is the “latte levy”?

The latte levy is a small additional charge on single-use coffee cups, which Ireland introduced in 2021.

Specifically, this mandate requires consumers to pay an additional 15 cents for a single disposable cup. The levy was designed to help reduce single-use plastic waste and encourage consumers to alter their buying habits.

Essentially, the additional charge aims to encourage more people to think more carefully about the cups they use for coffees to go.

Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, revealed the levy presented an efficient and impactful opportunity to reduce plastic use.

“One thing we clearly have to do is cut down on single-use disposables, and the most obvious one is disposable cups,” he said during an interview with RTE News. “A lot of this is about getting people to change the habit of a lifetime.

In 2022, the latte levy is expected to be extended to include single-use plastic takeaway containers and plastic retail food packaging.

takeaway cups

How has it affected takeaway coffee cup use in Ireland?

A study by Amárach Research and Carr Communications predicted that if the latte levy was the only one introduced in Ireland, the number of single-use cups could be reduced by 70,000.

On the other hand, if the initiative was introduced alongside other incentives, such as discounts, freebies, or refunds, this figure could increase by 300%.

As such, it is important for cafes and roasteries to adopt incentives like these to maximise the potential benefits of the latte levy.

While the full impact of the levy is yet to be seen, the success of other similar initiatives has been significant.

For instance, the charge for single-use plastic carrier bags had a profound effect on consumer habits. Since the 5p charge was introduced in the UK, the use of plastic carrier bags dropped by 90%.

Interestingly, some scholars have quoted it as “the most popular tax in Europe”, as the majority of customers don’t seem to mind having to carry reusable carrier bags with them.

Psychologists evaluated the shift in consumer attitudes after the plastics tax. The results showed all age, gender, and income groups substantially reduced their plastic bag usage within 30 days.

Furthermore, overall support for the plastic bag charge increased among all key demographic groups. In turn, this predicts greater support for other charges to reduce plastic waste, suggesting a “policy spillover” effect.

Critically, the bag charge has made the British public more aware of the need to reduce their plastic use. As a result, more are willing to adopt eco-conscious lifestyle changes.

These studies suggest the market will respond positively to the latte levy and consumers will alter their buying habits once given a nudge in the right direction.

compostable takeaway cups

Are other countries likely to introduce a similar scheme?

Presently, other countries are still debating whether to introduce a tax on single-use coffee cups. However, it would be premature to rule out implementing a levy in the future.

Some governments have already adopted taxes and even outright bans on a variety of single-use plastic products. These include plastic bags, cotton buds, and straws.

In 2020, France passed a law which banned disposable cups, cutlery, and plates. Now, all single-use items in the country must contain a minimum of 50% biodegradable material.

Additionally, Tübingen, a town in Germany, was the first to introduce regional taxes on single-use coffee cups. Other towns in the country have since followed suit.

In the UK, members of the Environmental Audit Committee have urged the government to introduce a similar tax. If UK consumers are not using recyclable coffee cups by 2023, the committee suggests banning disposable coffee cups completely.

As a result, the UK government is encouraging coffee consumers and suppliers to reduce plastic use. However, there is no current tax to push this drive.

In spite of this, many are seeing the benefits of biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable alternatives in the coffee sector. For example, materials such as kraft paper and polylactic acid (PLA) offer all the benefits of single-use plastic cups without damaging the environment.

In addition to encouraging customers to bring reusable cups, roasters and cafe owners can make the switch to compostable, recyclable, or biodegradable takeaway coffee cups.

latte levy

At MTPak Coffee, we have helped brands across the world adopt a more eco-friendly and forward-thinking approach.

We offer fully sustainable takeaway coffee cups made from either kraft paper or PET. Our cups are coated with more eco-friendly alternatives such as PLA, which is a plant-based bioplastic made from renewable resources.

Additionally, we offer 100% recyclable LDPE packaging that uses just two layers, making it easier for roasters and consumers alike to dispose of sustainably. Our sustainable coffee bags can be made from kraft or rice paper, both of which are renewable and environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, we can fully customise your takeaway cups and coffee bags using our sustainable water-based inks. Our inks are highly resistant to abrasion, heat, and water, and are low in volatile organic compounds, making them compostable.

For more information on our recyclable coffee cups, contact the team.

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