A group of independent coffee shops has called on major chains to offer more sustainable cups.

To mark the start of London Coffee Festival, nine companies have signed an open letter in which they described the need for coffee giants like Starbucks to lead the way in the fight against plastic waste. 

The move comes after Waitrose announced it would phase out disposable coffee cups in stores by autumn, and new figures revealed that NHS trusts in England get through millions of cups every year. 

London shops including Timberyard Seven Dials, Chief Coffee and Stir have called on their major rivals to step up their game and help combat plastic pollution.

“As members of the coffee retail community, we want to tackle this crisis,” they wrote. 

“Until the major players in our market invest in more sustainable solutions, there will be little systemic change.”

Starbucks recently pledged £7m to develop a “fully recyclable and compostable” cup, following a campaign by a coalition of environmental charities.

While their pledge was welcomed by campaigners, they emphasised the need for continued pressure on major companies to ensure they make the switch away from the current plastic-lined cups – the majority of which are not recycled.

“Major coffee chains like Starbucks earn billions in revenue each year,” the independent companies continued in their letter.

“They must all invest some of that money in developing a recyclable cup and a plan to reduce disposable cup use – this will provide a template for others to follow.

Specifically, the companies called on coffee giants to make greater public efforts to encourage the use of reusable cups, and to make good on promises to bring in fully recyclable paper cups.

The Independent’s Cut the Cup Waste campaign has been pushing for action from businesses and government to work towards better solutions to the problem of disposable coffee cup waste.

“The tide is turning on plastic. Consumers and small businesses don’t want to feed the crisis in our oceans and waterways, and are increasingly taking steps to change their own behaviour,” said Sondhya Gupta, senior campaigner at SumOfUs, which backed the open letter.

“But the biggest change needs to come from those who built and profit from this throwaway culture. Chains like Starbucks and Costa need to show consumers a comprehensive plan for cutting their plastic pollution, and the government needs to create laws to encourage this.”

Pressure has been growing to deal with disposable cup waste since a report by the Environmental Audit Committee revealed the scale of the problem.

Though the government has considered the introduction of a “latte levy” – a 25p tax on all takeaway coffee cups – it has recently shied away from such a measure.

A poll by The Independent found that the majority of the British public would support such a charge, and both ministers and environmental groups have thrown their support behind it.