Britain’s Co-op Food grocery retail chain, a long-time supporter of Fairtrade, renewable energy, and higher animal welfare standards, announced it is developing a plastic-free tea bag. The fully biodegradable paper tea bag will eliminate the use of polypropylene, which is widespread in tea bags as a seal.
Co-op’s Chief Executive, Jo Whitfield, said that the new design is undergoing “rigorous testing,” and will be sold in stores by the end of the year. The move by Co-op is part of its overall strategy, made last year, to ensure 100 percent of its packaging is recyclable (80 percent by 2020).
“Many tea drinkers are blissfully unaware that the teabag from their daily cuppa is sealed using plastic,” said Whitfield. “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 U.K., 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.”
Co-op’s own brand 99 tea will be made without polypropylene, with the expectation of saving 9 tonnes of plastic annually from its 4.6 million boxes of tea sold each year (around 367 million tea bags). It is developing the new bag with its tea supplier Typhoo and Swedish fiber/materials company Ahlstrom-Munksjö.