PG tips plans to go completely waste-free by 2021

PG tips has vowed to go completely waste-free next year after removing plastic coverings on its boxes and setting a target of making its entire tea range completely plant-based.

The tea giant, owned by Unilever, will also be the first major tea brand to move towards a fully plant-based range after debuting their plant-based bags last year which are fully degradable teabags made from corn starch.

PG tips is now starting the removal of the outer plastic overwrap on its 160s retail boxes.

The switch to ‘naked’ boxes first became available at the end of 2019 on the 160s packs, with the entire range set to be completely plant-based by summer 2021.

PG tips has spent several years developing fully biodegradable tea bags and is now the first major tea brand to feature them in all retail boxes.

First introduced in 2018, the plant-based tea bags are derived from corn starch and can be disposed of in a food waste bin to biodegrade back to nature.

Speaking at the time of the news, Noel Clarke, Vice President Refreshment at Unilever said: “Tea is the most consumed beverage after water in the UK with 9 billion PG tips tea bags made every year and after 85 years of making PG tips, we have a great understanding on how brits love their tea.

“The new plant based material we’re moving to is an innovation based on cutting edge science and technology and we’re all really excited that, starting from now, the PG tips that you know and love will come from a renewable source that’s fully biodegradable.”

The tea giant, owned by Unilever, will be the first major tea brand to move towards a fully plant-based range. (Jesús Gorriti, Creative Commons)

Scientists at Unilever have already converted some ranges in Canada, Poland and Indonesia.

Fiachra Moloney, Tea Director at Unilever UK&I, said the switch did not come “without its challenges”.

“As the nation’s favourite tea brand, making over 170 million cuppas a week, we’ve been working hard to make this environmentally-friendly switch,” he said.

“We’re delighted to be the first major tea brand to offer tea-drinkers a fully biodegradable cuppa in plant-based packaging with the same great taste they expect from PG tips.”

The news comes as Unilever announced last month that it would be investing €1 billion into efforts to help tackle climate change.

PG tips has also said the new teabags will be made available to the brand’s large catering bags and Food Service range later this year.

The company’s Manchester factory, where the tea is blended and packaged, is also claimed to be carbon neutral with 100% of the energy used coming from renewable sources.


PG tips showed what it called “#solidaritea” (a punderful hashtag) last month by declaring its support for the BLM protests that have broken out around the world since the death of George Floyd.

In response to a far-right comment on Twitter that competitor Yorkshire Tea replied to by telling the tweeter “please don’t buy our tea again”, the brand said: “If you are boycotting teas that stand against racism, you’re going to have to find two new tea brands now. #blacklivesmatter #solidaritea”.

While it has not outlined commitment of plans of action, Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer called on brands needing to speak out on “societal issues like this”.

“Our brands, PG tips being one of them, are taking a viewpoint that what’s going on is simply unacceptable…We do not tolerate intolerance,” Mr Engel said.

“Brands do need to speak out on societal issues like this. That’s why you saw PG tips showing solidarity with Yorkshire Tea…[Equality] is a societal issue for all of us that we need to fight for,” he added.

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