PG tips launches fully biodegradable tea bags

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Stock pic: Getty/xfotostudio
Stock pic: Getty/xfotostudio

Related tags: Tea

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.

The first run of the tea bags is due to hit UK shelves next week.

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.

Corn starch 

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.

Tea bags, polypropylene and alternatives

Teapigs’s ‘tea temples’ and the string attached are made from cornstarch and are fully biodegradable, with the label made from paper and vegetable-based ink.

Clipper Teas’ square heat-seal tea bags contain polypropylene: but it is running production trials to test an alternative solution. Its String & Tag bags do not contain polypropylene and are compostable.  

Tetley tea bags are 99% biodegradable but contain a ‘very small amount’ of plastic to ensure bags remain closed.

Pukka tea bags – bought by Unilever last year – are stitched closed without the use of plastic and are compostable and biodegradable.

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