The Co-op brews up fully biodegradable teabag

The UK supermarket says it’s the first retailer to tackle plastic waste from teabags.

The Co-op will make its own-brand 99 tea without the industry-wide use of polypropylene to seal teabags and help them hold their shape.

Instead, the retailer has teamed up with tea supplier, Typhoo, and sustainable fibre solution specialist Ahlstrom-Munksjö to heat seal the bag, which could save nine tonnes of plastic waste every year, according to the Co-op.

The new bio-degradable bag could be on shelves later this year, with the aim to roll it out across the supermarket’s entire own-label standard tea range, and will be fully compostable in food waste collections.

“Many tea drinkers are blissfully unaware that the teabag from their daily cuppa is sealed using plastic,” said Jo Whitfield, CEO, 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.

“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 has a long-term ambition to make all of its product packaging recyclable with an interim target of 80% by 2020.