The proposed 25p tax on disposable coffee cups will reduce cup use, but not solve the basic problem . Plastic does not degrade if left lying on the ground. Microorganisms in nature cannot digest plastic’s long chain molecules. They can digest everything else – paper, cardboard, food, wood and so on. So, discarded coffee cups and other packaging made of oil based plastics will still litter the countryside, beaches and seas for years to come.
We must stop using oil based plastics and use instead biodegradable plastics made from maize, sugar, wood or other microbe digestible substrates. Oil based plastic manufacturers should buy into the companies which already make these, and use their might and packaging skills to create packaging which degrades after use. They will gain support from consumers for being seen to be green.
Biodegradable cups and plastics can then be disposed of in our compost bins, to be shredded and either composted or anaerobically digested. Any remaining liquid milk, sugar or coffee residues are a bonus, as these serve to add nutrient and so speed microbe digestion. Recycling coffee cups is a mug’s game, with more labour cost being put in than valuable product coming out. Put on a coffee cup tax by all means, but address the basic problem first.