Could the latte levy kill your local?
The latest issue of Caffeine has a lead article Could the latte levy kill your local? It is nonsense and shows a lack of understanding of either the proposed latte levy, its impact or why it is necessary.
The simple answer to the question posed is no.
We have a simple principle, the polluter shall pay.
It is not acceptable that coffee shops externalise their costs onto the rest of society, which is what they are doing with plastic-lined coffee cups.
The 25p latte levy is not to penalise coffee shops, it is to make them pay their externalised costs, but more importantly, to change behaviour.
In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. These coffee cups cannot be recycled. Although they appear to be paper, they are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem, these plastic-lined coffee cups cannot be recycled and are adding to the growing problem of waste.
The planet is being smothered in plastic, sea life is being destroyed by plastic.
Compostable paper cups are a step in the right direction, but they are not the answer. If I have a coffee in a compostable cup, I am on my way home, I can drop on the compost heap. But if not what then? Therein lies the dilemma. It will join the general waste stream.
How long to decompose? I dropped a couple of compostable cups on the compost heap a few weeks ago. Not a lot is happening. It is though winter.
I would like to see a few people carry out this experiment. After use, drop compostable cups on a compost heap, monitor what happens.
Reusable coffee cups are not the answer either. Bulky, expensive and a pain to carry around.
I have yet to see anyone buy a KeepCup or clones thereof, let alone see anyone walk in a coffee shop and use one.
Conversations in coffee shops bear this out. Even when substantial discounts are on offer, take up is low. Though this may be about to change.
I was in a coffee shop, where Frank Green cups were on sale. Ugly, inelegant and made of plastic. I asked how much did they cost, what discount if any if used? No one knew. They did not know because no one could ever recall one being sold let alone used. They could not even find it on the till.
Where reusable coffee cups come into their own, is if targeting office workers popping out for a coffee, and only then if coupled with a substantial discount.
Compostable cups, reusable cups, are addressing the symptoms not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture.
We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass, make takeaway coffee socially unacceptable.
Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?
We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?
Those who will lose out will be the chains, not the indie coffee shops. Their businesses model is built on grab it and go undrinkable coffee.
The 25p latte levy will not be absorbed any more than the 5p plastic bag charge is absorbed. To believe otherwise is to entirely miss the point of the levy. It is there as a deterrent to change behaviour, not to penalise coffee shops or coffee drinkers.
All the indie coffee shops I have spoken to welcome the 25p latte levy, they see it to their benefit, plus they see the environmental damage caused by disposable coffee cups.
Since the policy has been proposed, it appears to have focused minds.
One coffee shop I spoke to had had KeepCups on sale for a couple of weeks, more to see how they sold, than anything else. They sold like hot cakes. The day I was there, three had been sold that day.
Another coffee shop has already changed to compostable coffee cups and will have KeepCups on sale soon.
Other coffee shops have told me they are looking into both compostable cups and KeepCups.
Four Boroughs offer a substantial discount which is a good idea, more should follow their excellent example, though I prefer the elegance of KeepCup.
Or is it simply a clever PR gimmick rather like Pret a Manger offering organic filter coffee at 49p a cup, with no reusable cups on sale? Four Boroughs are not offering a discount if you bring in a reusable cup for a refill.
Research has shown, need to both offer KeepCup or clone thereof and a substantial discount to make any impact on reducing use of disposable cups. Either one on its own has little impact.
I recommended to a coffee shop about to open, buy in KeepCup, sell at cost as a promotion during first week, offer a discount for a refill. They are an integral part of a new bus station. Bus passengers would have been tempted and intrigued by their fellow passengers. Sadly my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Even worse they stuck up a poster telling bus passengers the coffee shop was not a waiting room, in other words bus passengers not welcome.
No one will be paying a latte levy, not if they use a compostable cup, not if they bring a cup for a refill, not if they sit and relax with a coffee served in ceramic or glass.
What we need is dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.
Rather than writing nonsense and showing lack of understanding of the issues, even worse asking readers to lobby Members of Parliament to oppose the latte levy, Caffeine should be urging its readers to lobby hard for the latte levy to be brought in at the next Budget.
By calling for no latte levy, Caffeine is not helping either indie coffee shops or the planet, they are working hand in glove with the chains who behind the scenes are lobbying hard to block the latte levy.
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