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  Of coffee cups and sugar tax

Of coffee cups and sugar tax

Published : Mar 21, 2016, 12:07 am IST
Updated : Mar 21, 2016, 12:07 am IST

Plastic is the new pejorative.

Plastic is the new pejorative. Whilst in India there is a struggle to fine those who leave a plastic trail after partying, in the UK there is a storm brewing in coffee cups sold at the various chains — Starbucks, Costa, Caffè Nero and the rest. As many as 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year after a caffeine shot. The cool metrozens walking down the high street swigging their daily dose have, so far, had a green conscience. There is a green symbol on the cups to put their minds at rest, reassuring them that the cup they are about to throw away will be recycled, and can be binned with items which are biodegradable.

But now we learn that these cups can’t be recycled. Only bits of the cups can be recycled, the rest is plastic. This has led to a lot of anger. People feel cheated. So should there be a tax on these coffee cups to pay for the environmental damage they cause To curb the backlash the coffee shops are inviting the customers to BYOC — bring your own cups. But then will Starbucks wash them as well after the coffee has been drunk It’s about time we begin to check all the “biodegradable” tags on all products.

Coffee drinking might help in losing weight, but we also obsess about obesity. The latest bugbear here is the sugar in ready-to-eat drinks and food. Everyday some newspaper tells us the horror story of how much sugar is contained even in “diet” foods and “slimming” drinks. So in his latest Budget last Wednesday, the chancellor, George Osborne, has just put a tax on sugary drinks and various protests are already breaking out. Why only drinks Why not chocolate bars (Now that would be a disaster!) On the other hand, there are those who don’t like the nanny state telling them what to eat. But once a tax is introduced, it will not be removed any time soon, if ever.

But among the wealthier nations, where the type and quantity of food consumed is a major discussion point, anorexia has popped up into the debate. Baroness Joan Bakewell who used to be a star of serious TV news and discussion programmes and has been prominent in many causes has just said that the anorexia victims, often young girls, are self-obsessed, “over indulgent and over introspective”. Her implication that this is “narcissistic” behaviour doesn’t help, as anorexics say this is a mental illness and out of their hands. As with the sugar tax, there are also those who say she did not go far enough. But parents and those who promote slimming devices are angry. Something to chew on...

To add to the general confusion, surveys reveal that many of the young teenagers and twenty-something men and women are drinking less alcohol (Bailey’s remains a favourite), spend less time in nightclubs and have even given up smoking cannabis.

And yet they end up as obese older men and women! Hmm. So does that mean it’s only the senior citizens and young kids consuming all that unhealthy food the chancellor is going to tax Is he really only taking candies away from babies and geriatrics

Some women are natural born heroines who love a challenge. Victoria Pendleton has won several medals for track cycling at events around the world, including the gold at the Olympics. She was awarded the MBE in 2009 and CBE in 2013. There are Victoria Pendleton bicycles. What can she do for an encore Usually people who have a recognition advantage go in for quick cash ins on TV shows like I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

Victoria chose a hard option. She trained to be a horse race jockey. Not just for racing on the flat. She took on the frightening task of horse racing involving hurdles which can break you if you fall off and the horse kicks you. Undaunted she has trained to become a steeplechase jockey. Earlier this month, she won on her horse Pacha Du Polder. This weekend she ran at Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase. It involved jumping over 22 fences. Pacha Du Polder behaved himself and did not throw her off. Victoria came fifth, but as far as those watching her were concerned, she had won them over. When she and her horse were taken through the winner’s enclosure, no one had the heart to object. She will no doubt inspire many young women.

Meanwhile, we are all looking forward to the 90th birthday celebrations of the Queen next month. There are the usual nostalgic items with memories shared in the papers and on TV and radio, and photo albums displayed from the previous century. This is also the time when the country will become one large street party, because she is universally loved. The Queen has already broken records with both golden and diamond jubilees. Her mother, also named Elizabeth, lived beyond her centenary. Her great grandson George calls her Ga Ga... so that makes her Queen Ga Ga.

Lady Gaga, move over!

Kishwar Desai is an award-winning author