Coffee mania

The news has been full of the debate about 2½ billion coffee cups  per annum, most of which  cannot be recycled because the cardboard outers have thin plastic inners bonded to the outer that prevent recycling in all but a few very specialised recycling centres.  This has no doubt become a topic of debate following China’s decision to cease taking our waste.  Naturally, the demand is for government action and a 25 pence “latte levy” is proposed on coffee sales hopefully to have the same impact as the 5 pence levy on supermarket shopping bags.

I should admit to being a regular coffee drinker – probably three cups most days – always black, made with a spoonful of Nescafe and no milk or sugar.  Never a very enthusiastic shopper, I rarely worry too much about brands and tend to take the cheapest one I can spot on the shelves but, with coffee, I have always looked for Nescafe and the reason is simple.  Years ago, the lefties on Oxfordshire County Council and in the days when it was horribly hung, imposed an embargo on Nestles’ products for reasons I never entirely fathomed.  I rather suspect the enterprising County Hall staff at the time retained a large non-Nestles’ coffee tin and regularly topped it up with Nescafe but I never said anything at the time and the silly embargo causes me still to select Nescafe 30 years later!

I do not share the obsession for all of the exotic forms of coffee that seem to be peddled today and which has gripped the imaginations of many members of the public.  Which brings me to my main point.  Whether on a train to London or simply walking on a busy street, there are vast numbers of people clutching a cardboard cup full of coffee.  Now, I assume they have left their home to get to the station and catch their train to work or to go to work or the shops in town.  Why on earth do they choose to pay several pounds for a product in a nasty cardboard cup when they could have prepared their own in a proper china cup or mug to drink in the comfort of their own home before leaving?  I rather think the style gurus have worked their modern wonders of persuasion to make people believe they either have not got the time to enjoy a coffee in their own home or that they cannot make it as tasty as their local coffee shop or – and this is my best bet – they have worked the same sort of flanker that has persuaded many utterly stupid women (and a few stupid men) to wear jeans with the knees cut away.  Yes, I think the coffee cup to take away is a fashion fad requiring people to be seen clutching a cardboard cup on their train journey.  Whether an extra 25 pence on the cost will thwart the designs of the marketing gurus or not remains to be seen but I do not understand what possesses people to want to carry a hot cardboard cup while walking or riding on a train from A to B unless it is some sort of cultural symbol of wealth and being “in”.  Leave me out!

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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