BEFORE the paper bearing last week’s column about plastic pollution had reached the recycling bin, a group of MPs was calling for a 25p “latte levy” to be imposed on takeaway, throwaway coffee cups.

Before this week’s column is complete, Theresa May will have given her first, and very welcome, speech on how her Government is going to tackle this menace. We can tell the Government is taking this issue seriously because on Wednesday, Environment Secretary Michael “Govey” Gove walked into No 10 clutching a reusable coffee cup for the first time.

Britain drinks its way through 7m throwaway coffee cups every day – that’s seven times the height of Everest if they were all balanced end on end; that’s 2.5bn a year. Only one per cent of them are recycled; 99 per cent go to landfill.

Unfortunately, Mrs May yesterday held off from introducing the latte levy yesterday – even though by extending the 5p plastic bag levy, she acknowledged it would probably have an effect. We used to use 8.5bn plastic bags a year, but since the introduced of the levy in October 2015, our usage has dropped by 85 per cent.

Nudges by Government can change behaviour by consumers. For example, there are 400 plastic bottles sold in Britain every second, 35m every day, and yet we recycle about half of them. In Germany, where you get a small refund on your bottles, they recycle more than 98 per cent – you take them back to the supermarket, put them into a machine which counts them and then prints out a discount voucher for your next shop. Unfortunately, Mrs May held off introducing such a scheme yesterday.

Indeed, just the threat of the latte levy has changed our behaviour. Argos reported that sales of reusable coffee cups soared by 537 per cent in December, and in Hartlepool, Omega Plastics are reporting booming sales of their “potiko” – a sealable coffee cup that squashes down to fit into a pocket once you’ve drunk the contents.

Mrs May did say she was going to put ocean plastic pollution on the agenda of April’s Commonwealth heads of government summit. It is true that this needs to be a global co-operative movement, but it is also true that she would have been in a much stronger position to convince huge polluters like India to mend their ways if she could show what measures she was already introducing.

SAY what you like about the Daily Mail – and Virgin Trains has this week banned it from the West Coast route because it is incompatible with the company’s beliefs – but it has been a loud voice shouting about plastic pollution.

A word it created is also on our lips as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, passed on February 6, 1918, which gave 8.4m women aged over 30 the vote for the first time.

Initially, campaigners for women’s suffrage were known as “suffragists”, but an article in the Mail on January 10, 1906, by journalist Charles E Hands labelled them “suffragettes” – the “ette” ending meaning “small or brief”. The Mail meant to belittle and deride the suffragettes by coining the word, but they turned it into a positive. They said they were “suffra-GETs” because they knew they would get the vote for women.