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dirty teabags

Co-op developing biodegradable teabags to cut plastic waste

Image credit: DT

Biodegradable teabags are being developed by the Co-op for its own-brand ’99 Tea’ in an attempt to cut down on plastic waste.

The UK consumes approximately 165 million cups of tea every day or around 60.2 billion per year, so the amount of waste produced by the industry is considerable.

99 Tea currently makes bags with polypropylene - the material that allows tea bags to hold their shape - saving nine tonnes of plastic each year from being dumped in compost or landfill.

It is developing its new bag with tea supplier Typhoo and technology company Ahlstrom-Munksjo, which specialises in sustainable fibres.

They aim to develop a new method of heat-sealing the bags to eliminate the plastic seal used currently.

The new bag will undergo testing in February and should hit the shelves later this year.

Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: “Many tea drinkers are blissfully unaware that the teabag from their daily cuppa is sealed using plastic.

“Even though it’s a relatively small amount, when you consider the six billion cups of tea that are brewed up every year in the UK, we are looking at around 150 tonnes of polypropylene - that’s an enormous amount of accumulated plastic waste that is either contaminating food waste compost collections or simply going to landfill.

“A cup of tea is part of our national psyche, so we felt it was imperative that we fix the problem as soon as possible.

“We’re absolutely committed to reducing plastic in our packaging and want to ensure that tea lovers can enjoy a guilt-free brew.”

The Co-op aims to ensure 80 per cent of its packaging is recyclable by 2020.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled a long-term action plan for the environment that includes getting rid of ‘avoidable’ plastic waste. 

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