PG Tips maker Unilever puts kettle on for teabag recycling

Unilever has entered into a cross-industry partnership pilot to boost teabag recycling in the UK in a bid to recover energy from the nation's favourite hot drink.

Brits consume around 165 million cups of tea every day, but most teabags are disposed of in the residual waste bin. To address the problem, Unilever UK has teamed up with two Essex councils, Brentwood Borough and Chelmsford, together with WRAP to change consumer habits.

The campaign kicks off today (May 14) with widespread advertising across the county including posters at bus shelters and in local newspapers. The adverts, featuring PG tips’ iconic “Monkey”, advise tea drinkers that they can dispose of used tea bags in their kerbside food waste collection.

According to WRAP, tea is by far the largest element of unavoidable food waste produced in the UK, above items such as fruit peels and onion skins, accounting for some 370,000 tonnes of waste every year.

As the maker behind PG Tips, Unilever says that Britons drink more than 20 million cups of the brand every day. It is looking to take greater responsibility for this through its recycling drive which also supports the company’s commitment to reduce waste to landfill by 50% within the next eight years, as detailed in its Sustainable Living Plan.

Unilever’s sustainability director for beverages Paul Sherratt says that this type of challenge can only be tackled through industry collaboration and partnership working like the one his company has entered into.

“Unilever’s tea bags are mainly made from organic material so we believe that putting them in with the rest of the household food waste will be a small habit change that everyone can adopt,” he maintained.

“The advertising campaign is about educating and advising residents to this simple change which we hope will have a great impact on the amount of tea bag waste going to landfill.”

Chelmsford Council’s cabinet member for waste & recycling Cllr Janette Potter added: “By working in partnership on this campaign we’re encouraging residents to think about the life-cycle of food products and the treatment and disposal of waste in a responsible way.”

Collaboration between Unilever and councils is not a new concept. Last year the company established a partnership with Torbay Council to support a new mixed plastics recycling initiative.

Maxine Perella

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