PG Tips Launches Plastic-Free Tea Bags That Are 100% Biodegradable

Currently most tea bags contain a polypropylene plastic seal.

28/02/2018 10:05 GMT | Updated 28/02/2018 17:04 GMT

PG Tips has announced it is ditching plastic from its tea bags in place of a new plant-based material that is 100% renewable and biodegradable.

Currently, some of the UK’s most popular tea bag brands use polypropylene, a sealing plastic, to fasten the tea bags and ensure that they hold their shape. This means tea bags may not break down fully if you’re adding them to your food waste bin or compost heap.

[HuffPost investigates: Why is there plastic in my tea bag?]

The first batch of PG Tips’ new environmentally-friendly tea bags are ready to hit the shelves from next week, but Unilever, which owns the brand, said it’ll be phasing out its plastic tea bags over the course of 2018. 

As tea is the most consumed beverage in the UK after water, environmental charity WRAP has praised the move.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Scientists at Unilever have been actively exploring plant-based alternatives for PG tips for some time and have already converted some ranges in Canada, Poland and Indonesia.

Unlike polypropylene the new material is made from corn starch and is
fully biodegradable.

The news of the UK launch follows an announcement from the Co-Op in January, which said it plans to ditch the plastic strip that seals its own-brand 99p tea bags and replace with a biodegradable alternative by the end of the year.

Mike Falconer Hall, organics programme manager at environmental charity WRAP, welcomed the announcement from PG Tips. “We’re keen to see the UK’s tea drinkers recycle their tea bags and it’s great to hear that PG Tips is helping them to do this with the introduction of their new fully biodegradable tea bag,” he said. 

“If you have a food waste recycling collection in your area, you can put your used tea bags in there. Alternatively, you could pop it into your home composter, however, our climate means it can take a long time to break down, so you may want to sieve out the leftover part of your tea bag and discard it or dig in with the compost.”

Noel Clarke, vice president of refreshment at Unilever, added: “Nine billion PG Tips tea bags made every year and after 85 years of making PG Tips, we have a great understanding on how brits love their tea. The new 100% plant based material we’re moving to is an innovation based on cutting edge science and technology and we’re all really excited that, starting from now, the PG Tips that you know and love will come from 100% plant based material from a renewable source that’s fully biodegradable.”