MPs are calling for a 25p tax on throwaway cups, and an outright ban by 2023 if they are not all being recycled.
A report by the Environmental Audit Committee said there needed to be a ‘revolution in recycling’ to counter the UK’s booming coffee market.
The plastic lining on coffee cups makes them difficult to process, meaning less than 1% are properly recycled.
“The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet five and a half times,” said Mary Creagh MP, who chairs the Committee.
“Almost none are recycled and half a million a day are littered. Coffee cup producers and distributors have not taken action to rectify this and Government has sat on its hands."
But the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), which represents restaurants, cafes and over 90% of the UK’s managed pubs, argued that the plan was ‘not the answer’.
“Small and medium-sized businesses will be particularly vulnerable to cost increases and many of them will find it difficult to absorb this cost or even pass it onto customers as the cost of the cup is already factored into the price,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the ALMR.
She added that many of the body's members already offered discounts to customers who used their own cups.
However, the MPs report said such schemes were ‘ineffective’ and only accounted for 1-2% of coffee purchases.
It pointed to the success of the 5p plastic bag charge, which cut usage by over 83% in the first year, as showing consumers were more responsive to a charge than a discount.
But Nicholls said the government needed to find other ways to reduce waste.
“Action taken at the other end of the chain, to improve recycling facilities, rather than deter purchases, might be a more effective option,” she said.
“Schemes to tackle waste are welcome, and businesses are ready to play their part, but an additional tax on businesses, one which will increase costs and potentially threaten jobs, is not the answer.”
In response to the report, Starbucks has said it will try out a 5p charge per cup in up to 25 of its central London sites.
Pret A Manger has doubled its reusable cup discount to 50p this month in a bid to reduce waste. The company previously said it had considered charging customers for paper cups, but decided the move would go ‘against its instincts’.