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Litter strategy swerves action on coffee cups

Defra has unveiled a wide ranging littering strategy which will see heavier fines for the worst offenders and more bins placed in public places; but it has chosen not to take direct action to reduce the number of coffee cups sent to landfill.

The Litter Strategy for England aims to reduce the £800m cost of cleaning up litter by building an anti-litter culture that makes it easier for people to dispose of rubbish whilst hitting litter louts in the pocket.

Policies include £150 fines for the most serious offenders and penalty notices for vehicle owners when it can be proved litter was thrown from their car – even if it was discarded by somebody else.

The government also plans to update the nation’s ‘binfrastructure’ through creative new designs and better distribution of public litter bins, making it easier for people to discard rubbish.

Calls to take action on non-recyclable coffee cups, however, have been ignored. Some campaigners have called for a 5p tax to be levied on coffee cups to discourage their use following the success of the plastic bag charge, while others have urged the government to push for coffee shops and other fast food chains to offer a discount to people who bring their own cup.

Awareness is growing of the staggeringly low rate of coffee cup recycling – estimated to be about one in 400. The Square Mile Challenge, coordinated by waste charity Hubbub, is aiming to recycle half a million cups in April, and 5 million by the end of 2017 by placing giant recycling bins at retail locations and in public places.

As part of its new strategy, the government also plans to create a new expert group to look at further ways of cutting the worst kinds of litter, including plastic bottles and drinks containers, cigarette ends and fast food packaging.

Businesses have welcomed the strategy. “We are pleased to have been invited to join Defra’s new expert group to provide advice to the government on issues such as how best to increase the recovery of plastic drinks containers and reduce littering in the process,” said a Coca-Cola European Partners spokesperson. “We have long been committed to taking the necessary action to improve the sustainability of our packaging and look forward to working with other like-minded organisations to explore new ideas and approaches that will support the overall ambitions of this strategy.”