- According to a recent report, UK citizens toss about three billion paper coffee cups a year, and less than one in 400 is recycled. Following this report, the government is lightening recycling targets for plastic packaging from 57% by 2017 to 49% by 2016. The figure will inch back up by 2% a year, not to exceed the original 57% by 2020, according to The Guardian.
- The current glass goal of 77% will remain until 2017, increasing 1% a year to 80% by 2020.
- Meanwhile, about seven million coffee cups are used in Britain alone each day and statistics like these have triggered accusations that Starbucks, Costa, Caffè Nero, and Pret are making misleading claims that a bulk of their cups are recycled.
Wasted beverage cups are a problem in the UK and elsewhere, inundating both oceans and land. Part of the problem is they are made of paper and laminated with a protective plastic that is very hard to recycle.
Despite that, many large generators of these wastes claim their products are being recycled, there have been investigations such as one in Canada that, while small scale, uncovered startling realizations about what has actually happened to cups that the largest retailers claim were diverted from landfill.
The UK government says they have eased recycling targets to "reduce the burden on business." But environmental advocates charge that the fine print in the budget makes clear that the government has little interest in protecting its land and water.
"The Chancellor is ... damaging the prospects of future generations by cutting back on packaging recycling targets for plastic and glass," said Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth's acting campaigns director as reported in The Guardian. "Cutting these targets shows how little priority the government gives to these issues."
These accusations come just as Australian environmentalists are protesting a plastics problem in their region, coming down equally hard on their government.