Government considering 15 cent levy on disposable coffee cups

Published by Niall Sargent on

November 6th, 2017

The Government is considering bringing in a 15 cent levy on disposable coffee cups in an effort to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill in Ireland.

Environment Minister Denis Naughten announced today that the Government is examining best practice and international research to see how a levy could work in Ireland.

The Minister was speaking following talks with his Scottish counterpart, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, on innovative options for eliminating single-use non-disposable coffee cups.

The Ministers also discussed the illegal dumping of tyres, waste debris from ships and trawlers, and the problem of coastline waste that ends up in our seas.

Any levy on coffee cups would be applied in a similar fashion to the successful plastic bag levy that has led to a major reduction in consumers’ use of single-use plastic bags.

In a statement, the Minister’s Department said that “a levy of at least 15 cent would be needed to effect behavioural change” in Ireland.

The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 30 environmental NGOs – estimates that a 10 cent levy on disposable coffee cups alone would bring in more than €25m per year.

A proposal from the Pillar for a levy on all single-use non-compostable items was not included in the Government’s plans for Budget 2018.

Minister Naughten said that his department is also looking into ways to change consumer behaviour through the likes of national schemes that offer financial incentives for using reusable cups.

Minister Denis Naughten and Scotland’s Minister for Environment, Roseanna Cunningham Photo: DCCAE

“I have talked with companies such as Insomnia and Supermacs on this issue and they are looking at cost-effective alternatives as the main challenge is the plastic film lining the paper cups, meaning they’re rarely recyclable,” Minister Naughten said.

It is estimated that every day two million disposable coffee cups are going into landfills in Ireland. There are now over five trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean weighing the equivalent of almost 25,000 Dublin buses.

Many potential solutions have been brought in by coffee chains in recent years such as disposable compostable cups, however, most require commercial composting to biodegrade and end up in landfill.

Waste Reduction Bill

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said that his party was happy to accept the proposal as part of its Waste Reduction Bill 2017 for a total ban on non-recyclable or non-compostable coffee cups.

He said that any proposal to cut down on the “enormous amounts of waste we produce in Ireland” was a welcome move and would be willing to amend the Bill to take the Minister’s proposals on board.

“We’re calling for the Minister to drop his opposition to a deposit refund scheme on bottles and drinks containers, and work with the Opposition to pass these important measures as soon as possible,” he added.

Minister Naughten confirmed that he has asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications to “examine the merits” of a deposit and return Scheme for plastic bottles.

Your Cup Our Future

Starting today, Coffeeangel will donate 20 cent from every cup of coffee served in a reusable KeepCup to Friends of the Earth Ireland to help support local environmental initiatives.

Director of the specialty coffee chain, Caroline Sleiman, said that the move will also help the environment by reducing the number of single-use cups entering landfill.

“Whilst the challenges and changes required are immense, we wholeheartedly believe that through the power of small, personal initiatives we can help make a difference,” she added.

Friends of the Earth’s Cara Augustenborg said: “We’re grateful for [Coffeeangle’s] initiative and to their customers who avail of this new scheme to allow us to keep working for a world where both people and nature thrive.”

Research conducted by Canadian chemist, Dr Martin Hocking found the break-even energy requirement to manufacture a reusable plastic cup versus a paper cup over a lifetime use was under 15 uses.

Coffeeangel’s Glass KeepCups will be available for purchase online at and in all shops from today.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London