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Co-op heats, brews and leaves plastic out of its latest tea.

Posted on Feb 5, 2018 10:49:00 PM

TEA - 99.png"We felt it was imperative that we fix the problem as soon as possible. We’re absolutely committed to reducing plastic in our packaging."

Among many tea aficionados, there are two big reasons why loose-leaf is the only way to make the hot drink and British staple, tea. The first, perhaps unsurprisingly, relates to taste but the second is something altogether different: the impact that the teabag has on the environment. The vast majority of teabags, you see, are laced with polypropylene plastic that enables them to be heat sealed – a process that helps maintain their shape during the brewing process.

It was bad day when the the Bio-Based World News team discovered that the frankly indecent numbers of mugs of tea drunk in our London office everyday were contributing to the growing piles of waste plastic. However, the presence of that unwelcome plastic won't be a surprise to keen home composters for whom the one item never broken down is the humble teabag.

Thankfully help will be at hand later this year from Co-op, one of the UK’s most well-known supermarkets for the drink most commonly associated with the UK. The supermarket, which considers itself an ethical trader, is due to release a teabag that is completely free of polypropylene, a move that the supermarket chain maintains could save nine tonnes of plastic from being dumped in rubbish and compost collections. Tests on the bag began this month and the supermarket intends to release its own-brand tea – 99 – in fully compostable packaging later this year, according to the supermarket.

The Co-op, which sells around 4.6 million boxes of tea a year (around 367 million teabags) has joined forces with Typhoo, and Ahlstrom-Munksjö, which specialises in producing sustainable fibres, to create a variety of bag that can be sealed without the plastic seal.

Jo Whitfield, the CEO of Co-op’s food division, said that six billion cups of tea are brewed every year and using plastic-free bags instead will prevent around 150 tonnes of polypropylene from being dumped.

“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,” said Whitfield.


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Read: The ‘Blue Planet effect’ kick-starts focus on plastic use in UK but Brexit and funding challenges remain.

Read: Could milk protein be the solution to our plastic packaging crisis?

Attend: World Bio Markets, Amsterdam, March 20th-22nd 2018.

Feature: Industry experts give their thoughts on three key questions for the bio-based industry in 2018.

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Topics: BBWNBrands, Plastics and Packaging, Nutrition and Food

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About the Author

Dave Songer