Unilever tea brand, PG tips, is launching tea bags that are 100% biodegradable: removing the plastic polypropylene which is commonly used as a sealant. The material in the tea bags is plant-based and 100% renewable and biodegradable. Meanwhile the Co-op, a UK retailer, is also working to make its own-brand Fairtrade 99 tea bags free from polypropylene with the launch scheduled for later this year.
The UK is one of the largest per capita tea drinking nations, consuming 156m cups a day or 60.2 billion per year. PG tips produce 10 billion tea bags a year. Its pyramid bags are currently made from around 80% compostable paper fiber with a ‘small amount’ of polypropylene in the remaining packaging to seal the bag, as is common across the industry.
PG tips’ new tea bags use a material made from corn starch which is fully biodegradable. PG tips wants to see all its tea bags move to the new material by the end of the year. This means tea bags can be disposed of in food waste recycling or home composters. Some Unilever tea ranges in Canada, Poland and Indonesia have already been converted to plant-based alternatives.