British news readers casually commenting on bursting teabags led to a public apology by Britain’s second most popular tea brand, Yorkshire Tea, for faulty biodegradable plastic.
The brand switched from polypropylene sealed teabags in June to a more environmentally friendly biodegradable tea bag for both its premium and standard tea lines. In December the company apologized for what it called “a small proportion” of bursting bags. Yorkshire will continue with plans to switch all its tea to biodegradable bags by the end of 2019. It does not appear that batches of bursting bags were exported.
The apology appeared on the company’s home page and in social media postings.
“Our tea bags were sealed with oil-based plastic – and we’re switching that to a renewable plant-based material which is much more environmentally friendly to dispose of. Yorkshire Gold has switched already, and Yorkshire Tea is part way through,” wrote the company. “The new tea bags have been brilliant in our trials. Now they’re out in the world at a much bigger scale, some of them have been splitting while brewing. It’s actually a small proportion, but people are used to our tea bags being reliable, so it’s a big deal when they go wrong,” according to Yorkshire.
Observers on social media expressed concern (illustrated with photos of split bags and tiny leaves littering their cuppa) with some complaints rising to anger. “Getting miffed with giving @yorkshiretea my hard earned £££ for substandard tea bags that split in the mug,” tweeted ASD @DeolFrench
Roger Carter tweeted, “I salute their ditching of plastic in their bags.”
The UK Tea and Infusions Association estimates 96 percent of the 60.2 billion cups of tea the English consume annually is in teabags. Beginning late last year an online petition to rid the nation of oil-based, plastic-sealed teabags was signed by more than 200,000 tea drinkers. The outpouring convinced PG Tips to remove offending plastics, a move followed by several tea companies. The majority, like Yorkshire are switching to teabags sealed with plant-based plastics that degrade. Other brands use cloth bags sealed with thread.
Yorkshire is a signatory to the WRAP UK Plastics Pact with a pledge to eliminate by 2025 unnecessary single-use packaging and ensure 100 percent of plastic used in packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable. The biodegradable teabags must be processed as industrial compost to degrade fully. Disposal with food waste is recommended since the new teabags are not backyard compostable.
Yorkshire said the conversion to plant-based plastics is the first step in a series of big environmental changes. “Once we’ve got this under our belts, we want to replace the plastic wrap on the outside of our tea box – and by this time next year, all our products will be carbon neutral,” writes the company.
“Sometimes we might stumble a bit in trying to make these changes happen. We want to do the right thing and we hope that you can forgive us for our teething problems.”
“If anyone ever has any issue with Yorkshire Tea, for any reason at all, our customer services team is really lovely and always very, very keen to put things right, so please just let us know at email@example.com (with the batch number from the bottom of the box, if you have it).”