The Massive Environmental Impact of Your Coffee Cup - FoodPrint
What & Why?
  • In 2023, the new 'Latte Levy' or 'single-use coffee cup tax' will be introduced as part of the 'Circular Economy Bill' proposed by the Irish Government.


  • The consultation for this 'levy' closed in November and proposed that the regulations will be made in December providing for at least three months to be given to allow retailers to prepare & transition.


  • This 'levy' aims to make Ireland one of the first in the EU to introduce a measure like this to stifle the amount of single-use cups sent to landfill and incineration each year.


  • And lastly, why...Ireland as a nation is said to dispose of up to 200 million single-use cups each year which is a scary 22,000 per hour!

    How it works!

    • Consumers will be charged a 20c levy on disposable coffee cups under these measures.


    • The charge aims to encourage more people to think more carefully about the cups they use for coffees to go.


    • The levy will target all coffee cups, including those that are compostable & biodegradable and recyclable.


    • The levy will be shown as a separate charge on the invoice/receipt


    • The environmental levies on the single-use items will be ring-fenced and put into a circular economy fund


    • All businesses / traders who sell hot drinks in single-use disposable cups will be required to register for the levy with the Collection Authority, when appointed.


    There is no reason why everyone shouldn't have a reusable water bottle or  coffee cup' – The Irish Times

    My humble Opinion...

    • it's not just single-use cups - it's that they are used for 10 minutes before being 'tossed' and require a huge amount of resources to manufacture and ship, which is ultimately wasted... It's like sitting down to paint a photo for 8 hours, then tossing it into the fire...


    • It's also what we don't see e.g. the emissions, the air pollution, how plastics impact our health & also it's impacts on the natural world disrupting biodiversity at all corners whilst also leading me to often growl like a 'hangry' puppy walking up Ticknock, the Hellfire Club or out by Poolbeg at the site of plastic waste.


    • Lastly, in case you're a new follower, I may or may not have a partial vendetta against Marketing & 'greenwashing'.


    • We are often deceived by potential 'solutions' e.g. items being labelled as 'Recycleable' or 'compostable' (or even 'sustainable' for that matter) - which mean nothing unless they actually get recycled or composted.


    • Marketing gurus have also led to disposable cups becoming 'Insta Gold' over the years with Starbucks in particular luring us to instagram each coffee showing our name spelled incorrectly essentially A) promoting single-use and B) giving free-marketing. Genius to be fair... but evil genius.

    The Sopranos – “46 Long” Review (Part III) | A Pair of Tools

    Over the years, it's fast life, fast business, fast coffee... maybe there is something to be said for slowing down, sitting back, & enjoying our coffee in a reusable/ceramic cup to actually taste more and waste less.

    Hellfire Club littering was an 'exceptional mess' |

    I would hate for tourists to come to Ireland & say 'yeah it was great fun, but the place is a kip'

    Ultimately, I feel it goes back to behaviour and pride.

    We never want people to speak ill of Ireland and with the way my friends, family and colleagues have spoken about our capital cities waste problem in particular - we need to up our game.

    Also, over the years, it's fast life, fast business, fast coffee... maybe there is something to be said for slowing down, sitting in & enjoying the coffee in a ceramic or reusable cup?

    Taste more, waste less!

    The Plastic Bag Levy!

    The past is often one of the best predictors of the future, therefore, let's consider the impacts of the Plastic Bag Tax introduced in 2002!

    The aim was to;

    A) Reduce the amount of consumers using Single Use Bags via financial impact/motivation to deter and

    B) Raise funds / investment via the Taxes to invest in solving the problem


    1) Over €200 million was raised in the first ten years!


    2) Assisted with a 90% decrease in Plastic Bag usage & waste.


    3) Emissions reduced as 90% of plastic bags were once Imported.


    4) The funds helped improve other projects to tackle plastic waste further.


    5) It got the conversation started! Never underestimate the power of conversation.


    Potential Benefits of the Coffee Levy

    1) Revenue:

    If the reports are correct & Ireland wastes & consumes 2 million single use coffee cups per day - that would equate to a potential €400,000 per day being generated in Tax revenue.


    With Ireland being consistently listed as one of the EU's top producers of plastic waste the Tax will A) Raise funds to solve the issue or at a minimum B) Reduce waste produced by the consumer.


    Also, to avoid the 20c Coffee Cup Tax & obtain the 20c discount provided by coffee shops by using reusables (if they still provide) I would could be easily €40 better off in my pocket each year & proves my theory that "a reusable is an Investment".


    2) Behavioural Change:

    A habit is a redundant set of automatic, unconscious thoughts, behaviours and emotions that's acquired through repetition - therefore, once we realise the benefits of reusables - it will become easier to turn to the 'new normal' when it comes to packing our bags each morning before work.


    It will be; phone, wallet, keys & reusables rather than just the initial three.


    3) Emissions:

    Waste & Emissions and emissions are also an important and a by-product / idea that isn't always discussed.


    There is always more than meets the eye. In terms of the Plastic Bag tax, it brought in hidden benefits e.g. reduced emissions from importing the Bags, same goes for the Coffee Cups in terms of waste, emissions, litter etc. etc.


    On the other hand

    It's important to think about those that may be impacted by this decision... Nothing is straight forward...

     1) reusables need to be clean, otherwise this will break retailers hearts


    2) Coffee retailers may lose footfall each day - impacting revenue


    3) It's sad to think so many coffee shops have spent endless weeks & funding researching solutions to reduce their impact & play their part before this levy.


    4) What happens if another Public Health Measure is required?


    5) Will coffee shops be forced to import cheaper alternatives from abroad, thus increasing transport emissions?


    6) Would the government have been better off allocating more funds to improve the waste, compost & recycling system in Ireland?


    A little bit about me!

    • When I first started Narcissips, the big thing for me was I need to hold myself accountable - for the environment, for my health and for my pockets (stereotypical accountant I know)
    • A) The environment, I shouldn’t have to say anything here!
    • B) If I am getting a 20 cent discount every time I use my coffee, my reusable is basically paying for itself! It was an investment and as an Accountant, I'm all for anything that is a win-win for me and the planet!
    • C) With all the endless reports on BPA & PET and their impact on our health as Endocrine disrupters, it was the straw that broke the camels back for myself anyway.
    • D) Important to note that reusables themselves have a Carbon footprint and must be used 40-58 times before we see the benefits offsetting their production as well as leading to less waste in terms of single use plastics / cups. More reusable brands need to be honest about this - it’s not good enough to just buy a reusable. You have got to use it! For me then, this is also why I spent the first year cycling around Dublin to delivery our reusables :) It helped me practice what I preach whilst also ensuring I kept myself that little bit slimmer too... win-win.

    Anyway, if you made it this far - I swear by our Reusable Olympus Travel Tumblers which you can find linked here - so much so, that I put my face to them and also that each day, when I pack my laptop away to head to work - my tumbler goes in with my MacBook laptop so if that is not trust :)


    Written by Cathal O Reilly

    Leave a comment

    More stories

    Some of the Dirty not so Sustainable secrets behind Electric cars!

    Electric Vehicles, sound great, look great and appear to be a wonderful solution to some of the climate problems we face in today's era of consumerism, indulgence & emissions!

    However, all may not be what it seems and when it comes to EV's, we really need to pop the bonnet and look under the hood to fully critique. In this article, we will take a brief look at emissions, mining, recycling & the price issue.

    One of Fifty to Watch in Ireland in 2023, Cathal O'Reilly, Founder - Narcissips

    Well, 2023 just got off to a wonderful start at Narcissips Reusables HQ in Dublin. Check out the Irish Times article here where our Director and Founder, Cathal O'Reilly got listed as one of fifty to watch in 2023 due to his philanthropic social enterprise Narcissips achievements over the last few years in terms of Sustainable Development Goals 4, 6 and 12.