Consumers support measures to reduce plastic waste

Consumers support measures to reduce plastic waste

New research from Mintel suggests the public agree with government that plastic waste must be tackled, and a levy on disposable paper cups is a good start.

By Hari Alexander
The paper cup mountain must be tackled

Awareness is growing of the environmental damage caused by plastic lined paper cups, which aren't recyclable. As the Government announces a 25-Year Environmental Plan which aims to eliminate plastic use, Mintel research suggests Britons do want to do their bit for the environment - but not at any cost. 

Mintel has been asking people up and down the country what they think about plastic waste, what they'd be prepared to do themselves to tackle it and how levies could impact on their spending.
 
Mintel found 40 per cent of people who buy hot drinks when away from home wouldn’t mind paying extra (but how much extra?) for drinks served in 100 per cent recyclable cups. On the other hand, 73 per cent of coffee shop drinkers say price increases would make them cut back on the number of drinks they buy.
 
The most eco-minded Brits are younger people, particularly 20-24 year olds, with 50 per cent of those questioned saying they would pay more for drinks served in recyclable or compostable cups.
 
And nearly 60 per cent of consumers think coffee shops should offer a discount to those using their own travel mugs - Pret a Manger is already offering 50 pence off the price of a hot drink to customers bringing their own cup.
 
But if the much touted 25 pence latte levy is imposed on drinks in non recyclable paper cups, 73 per cent of coffee shop customers say they'd buy fewer drinks, which could affect the profits of what's become a massive business, with sales of coffees due to reach £3.7 billion a year by 2022.
 
However, consumers are open to seeing environmentally-friendly changes introduced in other areas of the coffee shop. Four in five Brits believe coffee shop outlets should provide recycling bins, while three quarters agree restaurants should use recyclable packaging for takeaway/home delivery; a view which is particularly strong among the over 45s (78 per cent).
 
Trish Caddy, foodservice analyst at Mintel, says the BBC’s Blue Planet II series catapulted plastic pollution back into the public debate, and some businesses are already taking the lead in helping ‘nudge’ consumers to play their part in reducing waste: 'Our research shows while consumers have great environmental intentions, they're often very time pressured. Also, the hassle factor of carrying around reusable coffee cups could limit the popularity of schemes that reward people for doing so.
 
'A more effective solution would be to make things easier for consumers by making cups more easily recyclable by, for example, using 100% biodegradable packaging rather than recycling the plastic.'  
 
Environmental campaigners, however, disagree and say it's far better that we all train ourselves to take a re-useable lightweight drinks cup out with us, just as many of us have got into the habit of having a couple of plastic bags on hand for shopping.
 
 
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