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Sustainability and the Environment

At Twinings, we’re concerned about the use of plastics and are taking action to improve the sustainability of our products and reduce their impact on the environment.

Across Twinings products in the UK, more than 90% of our current packaging materials are recyclable, and we are working hard to improve the remaining non-recyclable materials. We support the principle of Remove, Reduce, Recycle and Reuse and believe that, whilst there is currently an important role for some types of plastic to help package and protect our teas, we should ensure we are using the right packaging materials, in the right way, as part of a ‘circular’ economy.
 
Over the past two years we have undertaken a lot of work to address our use of plastics and we want to share our next steps towards a more sustainable future.

Our approach

We are actively working on our use of plastics in three key areas:

  1. To ensure our teabags are made from plant-based and biodegradable materials.
  2. Moving our inner ‘foil’ wrap into materials that are fully recyclable.
  3. Changing the individual sachets in which we pack some of our speciality and catering teas into fully recyclable materials.

Teabags – moving to sustainable solutions

The traditional teabag was first introduced in the 1940s and is used widely by most tea blenders in the UK. This type of teabag uses a very small amount of plastic that is embedded into the paper to help seal the edges of the bag when they are pressed together and heated. Without this seal, the teabags would split open and release the tea leaves inside.

Having undertaken extensive quality tests, from January 2020 we are changing all our traditional teabags into a new type of paper that is entirely plant based and fully biodegradable when placed into local authority composting. For example, your council food-waste or garden-waste bin.

Some of our ‘tag’ teabags (those that consist of a teabag with a string and paper tab) are already made from a similar biodegradable plant fibre, or cellulose, based paper that is folded and then stitched with cotton. We are also working to transfer all our ‘tag’ teabags into this same material during the first half of 2020.

Our premium hot and cold ‘mesh’ teabags look as though they are made from plastic, but this is actually a corn-starch derived material that will also degrade in local authority composting.

We know that not everyone has access to a local council compost bin. If that is the case, the best way to dispose of your teabags is to empty the tealeaves into your home compost and put the bag in the bin.

Our ultimate aim is to find a teabag paper that is fully compostable in home-garden compost as well as industrial composting. As of yet, we are not aware of any suitable material being commercially available, but we are continuing to work with our tea bag suppliers on this as our ideal long-term solution.

In the meantime, if you would prefer to switch to the use of loose leaf teas that can go directly onto the home compost heap, we already offer a wide selection for you to choose from.

Our inner foil wrapper

For some of the tea we sell in grocery stores, we use a plastic based foil to wrap around our teabags inside the box to protect the tea and preserve its freshness.

Tea is surprisingly absorbent, which means it can pick up taints from other products around it.  For that reason, most teas sold in the UK are either sold in cellophane wrapped boxes or packed in a plastic based ‘foil’ material to protect them.

Across the majority of our range we currently do not use a cellophane outer wrap on our boxes and, as part of our programme to improve our packaging, we are working to reduce the amount of plastic we are using for our inner wrappers and change it into a material that is fully recyclable. This is a priority project we are looking at in 2020.

Our individual tea sachets

We use a plastic-lined paper to pack our individual teabags and keep them safe and fresh. As with our foil liners, we have undertaken a detailed review of our sachet paper requirements. We are currently talking to our paper packaging suppliers about changing this material in the near future to a new material that is fully recyclable.

Our Plastic ‘Cold Infuse’ Jar

Our new and innovative Cold Infuse product range is currently packed in a fully recyclable plastic jar. Both the lid and the jar are widely recyclable, and we currently have a project underway to review what alternative materials we could use to make this range even more sustainable.

A force for positive change

Twinings has been blending teas since 1706 and we are proud of our long heritage, as well as the work we have undertaken to improve working conditions for thousands of people working on the tea estates that supply our business.  Some of the projects outlined above are surprisingly complex and will take a little time to implement, but we wanted to give you a clear idea of our approach. We are committed to improving the environmental sustainability of our packaging for the long term and will keep you updated as we progress.

Existence of Micro and Nano Plastics

We are aware of a research paper on the apparent release of microscopic particles in tea through the brewing process.  None of our products are made with materials assessed in the study and we would like to emphasise that all packaging used in food and drink sold in the UK is tightly controlled by legislation and carefully checked by manufacturers, retailers and food safety regulators to ensure that it meets these stringent safety standards.

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