Why we’re switching from compostable plastics?
Many of you will know that we made the move to a material called NatureFlex for the inner pouches inside our packs a few years ago. It is a plant-based material, made from wood pulp, that does as good a job of keeping our tea fresh and food-safe as conventional soft plastic. Genius!
We have always believed that investing in bio-materials like NatureFlex over traditional (oil-based) plastics, was the better choice for the environment and we were very proud to be the first tea company to be certified Plastic-Free, working closely with A Plastic Planet. Lots of work has gone in to communicating how to responsibly dispose of the NatureFlex inner pouches, and our packaging in general, on-pack and in communications.
However, due to a lack of suitable infrastructure to enable effective disposal in the UK many retailers are now banning products in packaging that contains compostable plastic. Therefore a number of brand like us have had to make the hard choice to move away from this type of material.
Whilst we want to support the development of plant-based packaging, based on the research we have seen we wanted to take action. We have decided to switch our inner pouches to polypropylene (soft plastic) for these reasons which we believe will have a more positive impact:
1. Limited food waste collection
Currently only 54% of UK households have food waste collection. So, more than half the population are unable to dispose of teapigs pouches in the right way. Soft plastic, on the other hand, is recycled at the majority of UK supermarkets.
2. NatureFlex looks like plastic.
There is currently no way to identify it as “compostable” so that industrial composting facilities aren’t able to differentiate it from traditional plastics. Therefore, if placed in food waste collection, NatureFlex pouches could be removed at the composting facility and set to landfill.
3. Confusing for consumers
As compostable plastics look like traditional plastics it’s easy to dispose of them incorrectly. Many of you also told us that you are unable to dispose of the inner pouches in the correct way due to your local council infrastructure.
We will continue to stay close to Futamura group (who produce the NatureFlex currently in our packs, A Plastic Planet and Wrap to help inform future packaging decisions. teapigs inner-pouches will be produced using polypropylene from 2022.
Our new inner soft plastic packs will start to appear in Tesco stores from December 2022 and will be rolled out fully across 2023. Find out where to recycle you inner pouches here.
Want to know more? We have popped a couple of links to the research behind our decision below:
UCL Big Compost Experiment – 24-month report, 2022
Compostable Plastics, UCL, 2020
A Guide for Product Manufacturers Intending to Use Biodegradable Packaging, UCL, 2020
Don’t Scrap the Waste: The Need for Broader System Boundaries in Bioplastic Food Packaging Life-Cycle Assessment - A Critical Review, Journal of Cleaner Production, 2020
Life Cycle Assessment of Recycling Options for Polylactic Acid, Resources, Conservation & Recycling, 2019
Effect of Paper vs. Bioplastic Bags on Food Waste Collection and Processing, Waste and Biomass Valorization, 2021
Life Cycle Assessment of Compostable Coffee Pods: A US University Based Case Study, Nature Research, 2020