There's nothing better than settling down with a nice cup of tea. 

That is, until you’re struck by the guilt of using a teabag that’s only contributing to the growing amount of plastic pollution in our environment. 

Good news tea lovers!

The UK’s biggest tea brand, PG Tips, is making the switch to fully biodegradable teabags. And it’s imminent.

Take action: Fight Waste to Protect Our Oceans

The first of the new 100% eco-friendly teabags, the Pyramid teabags, will be on sale in supermarkets across the UK from next week, according to an announcement on Wednesday. 

“Tea is the most consumed beverage in the UK, with 9 billion PG Tips teabags sold every year,” said Noel Clarke, vice president of refreshment at Unilever, which owns PG Tips. “Out latest move maintains the same great taste of our tea whilst minimising our environmental impact.” 

The new teabags will be made from a plant-based material that is 100% renewable and biodegradable. And PG Tips has said it will be aiming to make all its teabags 100% biodegradable by the end of the year.

Read more: 5 Household Products That Are Slowly Destroying the Environment

Typically, most teabags at the moment aren’t actually 100% biodegradable — even though you can still compost them. 

Most contain polypropylene, a sealant, that helps the bags keep their shape and stops them falling apart in your mug. 

A report published in 2010 by “Which? Gardening” explored how biodegradable Britain’s teabags really are, and revealed that the teabags produced by the country’s leading manufacturers were only between 70-80% biodegradable. 

The government waste body Wrap still advises people to compost teabags, even when they contain propylene, but it does mean a bit of residue might be left in your compost. 

Read more: This Coffee Chain Is the First in the UK to Charge a 'Latte Levy' for Disposable Cups

“Our advice remains that teabags are suitable for composting,” said Lynne Gunn, Wrap’s home composting expert, at the time. “If the bags are still visible when you want to us the compost, they can be sieved out or picked off the surface of the soil. You can also speed up the composting process by ripping open the bags.”

While PG Tips is the first mainstream tea brand to make a major move to cutting out plastic, it could spark a revolution. 

Some others among the UK’s leading tea manufacturers have already announced that plastic-free is on their agenda. 

Yorkshire Tea told the BBC in December that it is “actively developing plant-based and biodegradable alternatives.” 

Read more: A Seal Found With a Frisbee Cutting Into Her Neck Is Now Back in the Wild

The Co-op also announced recently that it’s in the final stages of making a 100% biodegradable teabag from paper for its own-brand Fairtrade 99 tea.

Tetley told the BBC the plastic in its teabags won’t break down in compost, but they are “normally so small they are not seen.” 

Twinings said its pyramid bags were free from plastic, but their heat-sealed bags do contain some polypropylene fibres. 

In the UK, 165 million cups of tea are drunk every day, according to the trade body the UK Tea and Infusions Association — and 96% of these are made with teabags. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action for climate change, life on land, life below water, and creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action on these issues here.


Defend the Planet

PG Tips Is Going Plastic-Free With Biodegradable Tea Bags

By Imogen Calderwood