The company is replacing the polypropylene used as a sealant on the tea bags with a material made from cornstarch, making them 100% renewable and biodegradable.
Unilever’s aim is that all tea bags manufactured will use the new material by the end of 2018.
Noel Clarke, vice-president of refreshment at Unilever, said: “The new 100% plant-based material we’re moving to is an innovation based on cutting-edge science and technology.
“We’re all really excited that, starting from now, the PG Tips that [consumers] love will come from 100% plant-based material from a renewable source that’s fully biodegradable.”
PG Tips’ pyramid bags are mostly made from paper, with a small amount of polypropylene used to seal the tea bag. This method is widely used across the industry.
Unilever researchers have been exploring plant-based alternatives for PG Tips for some time, claimed the manufacturer, and have already converted some ranges in Canada, Poland and Indonesia.
Exploring plant-based alternatives
Commenting on the tea bags, Waste and Resources Action Plan organics programme manager Mike Falconer added: “We’re keen to see the UK’s tea drinkers recycle their tea bags and it’s great to hear that PG Tips is helping them to do this with the introduction of their new fully biodegradable tea bag.”
Earlier this month, Unilever said it would continue to modernise its food portfolio through “innovations and acquisitions” after the company revealed market conditions “remained challenging” in 2017.
Meanwhile, the UK’s food and drink supply chain has been shamed into pledging to reduce its use of plastics in packaging and use more recyclable or biodegradable polymers, following growing public anger and adverse publicity about the damage plastics cause to the environment.