Latte Levy: A Necessary Measure?

Many people can’t survive without their morning cup of coffee. Many people also buy this cup of coffee on the go, instead of making it at home and bringing it into work with them in a reusable mug.

With this in mind, Amárach Research and Carr Communications’ Behavioural Economics and Sciences Team conducted a survey of over 1,000 adults in Ireland. According to the findings released last week, measures such as a ‘latte levy’ tax on disposable cups, discounts for returning plastic cups to shops and for using reusable mugs, could prevent a large amount of waste accumulating in landfills in Ireland.

A 15c levy on disposable cups is being considered by the government in a bid to get Irish consumers to make more environmentally conscious decisions. Reusable hot beverage cups are popular with giant coffee retailers such as Starbucks and Costa, who sell their own brand of reusable mugs.

The research undertaken by Amárach Research and Carr Communications’ Behavioural Economics and Sciences Team found that on average, Irish adults’ drink four hot drinks a week. This means that around two million plastic cups are sold in Ireland every day.

If this ‘latte levy’ comes into place, the research suggests that Ireland could reduce 250,000 disposable cups filling landfills a day. When asked how they felt about the 15c levy, 45 percent of the people surveyed said it was the right amount. 42 percent felt it was too much and 13 percent said the levy should be higher.

These discussions are similar to the 22c plastic bag levy put in place in Ireland in 2002. Retailers give this levy to the Office of Revenue Commissioners, who in turn gives it to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. This levy raises money for the department, reduces Ireland’s plastic usage and it also makes Irish people second-guess using a plastic bag over a reusable one.

Right now, it might seem unusual that in the future the majority of the population would carry reusable mugs with them to buy their daily tea and coffee. But before March 2002, and the introduction of the plastic bag levy, 95% of people shopped using plastic bags. The change in attitude towards the environmentally damaging and costly plastic bag option was almost immediate after the levy was introduced. Superquinn Manager, Eamonn Quinn noted in 2002 that he saw an instant and dramatic change in shopper behaviour, “It jogs something in people’s minds that they really didn’t want to give 15 cents to the government, particularly when they had a reusable option.”

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