Which? picks holes in tea bag biodegradability

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tea

Tea bags sold in the UK are only 70 to 80 per cent biodegradable, according to a report published by Which? - a consumer rights watchdog.

Which? Gardening magazine published a report today suggesting that the vast majority of tea bags in the UK are not fully compostable. Because of the polyproplylene in the bags used by manufacturers like Tetley, PG Tips, and Twinnings, the watchdog said gardeners are finding the net part of bags are left behind on compost heaps.


In discussions with tea manufacturers, Which? added that it found little interest on the part of tea companies to improve the biodegradability of their bags.

For example, Teadirect’s Whitney Kakos said: “Most consumers don't notice (the polypropylene) and probably don't care.”

Talking to BeverageDaily.com, Bill Gorman, chairman of the UK Tea Council, admitted that the bulk of UK tea bags are heat sealed and therefore contain small amounts of polyproplylene.

This is not the case on the continent where a vegetable gum is often used instead, making the bags 100 per cent biodegradable.

Different bags

However, Gorman defended the UK position. He said tea bags in the UK contain about 3.1g of tea compared to only 2g on the continent and that this higher volume of tea means that a heat seal is a generally considered a better option for securing the bags.

In addition, the tea lobbyist said polyproplylene only makes up a small part of the tea bag, and does eventually break down. He said none of the major recycling organisations object to its use in UK tea bags.

According to the UK Tea Council, the UK remains one of the biggest consumers of tea, getting through 165m cups every day, 96 per cent of which are made with teabags.

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