UK retail group the Co-op is developing a new fully-biodegradable paper tea bag, with the aim of reducing the amount of waste created by the popular beverage.
The retailer says that its own-brand 99 Tea will be produced without polypropylene - an industry-wide method used to seal tea bags.
As the group sells around 4.6 million boxes of tea annually, it says that this move could save nine tonnes of plastic every year from entering landfill or compost bins.
“Many tea drinkers are blissfully unaware that the teabag from their daily cuppa is sealed using plastic," said Jo Whitfield, CEO of Co-op Food.
"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."
The Co-op and its tea supplier Typhoo are working with sustainable fibre specialist Ahlstrom-Munksjö to develop a new method of heat-sealing bags, which will eliminate the use of the plastic seal.
The new biodegradable bag is due to undergo testing in February, and the Co-op says that it could be on shelves later this year.
The retailer added that the new bag, which is intended to be rolled out across its entire private-label tea range, will be fully compostable after use.
“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," added Whitfield.
"We’re absolutely committed to reducing plastic in our packaging and want to ensure that tea lovers can enjoy a guilt-free brew.”
Plastic packaging is currently a hot topic for UK supermarkets, after Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to eliminate all 'avoidable' plastic waste by 2042.
The Co-op says that its aims for 80% of its product packaging to be recyclable by 2020, with a long-term goal of 100%.
© 2018 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Sarah Harford. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.