From cup to compost: PG tips tackles the issue of tea bag waste with Recyclebank

Do you pop it in your food waste, compost it or send it to landfill? This is the question being posed to sustainability-conscious tea drinkers when they visit the Recyclebank website and PG tips’ Facebook page from today and learn how best to dispose of used tea bags.

A new video on Recyclebank, a site which rewards people for taking everyday green actions with discounts and deals, is the latest activity by the UK’s market leading tea brand to tackle the issue of the 370,000 tonnes of tea bags sent to landfill every year.

Lovers of a warming cuppa will be given the chance to learn and earn rewards which convert into money off coupons for PG tips by watching a short video and deciding the fate of used tea bags. Those who choose the option of composting or recycling will earn 20 points each and have the option of earning a further 20 through taking part in a tea bag waste quiz, and a further 10 by pledging to dispose of their tea bags in a sustainable way.

The partnership with Recyclebank builds on PG tips’ momentum in this area over the past year which has focused on tea bag recycling. This has included working with Brentwood Borough Council, Chelmsford Council and WRAP in an awareness raising campaign to encourage Essex residents to recycle their used tea bags.1 Since this kick-off trial, the brand has also used its Facebook page to engage with its almost 325,000 fans in discussions about tea bag waste, using the loveable, iconic Monkey in a game called “Monkey’s Recycle Challenge”.

The issue of tea bag waste is an important one to Unilever – the biggest tea company in the world – as Brits alone drink 165 million cups every day, of which 20 million are PG tips. As part of its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has committed to halving the waste associated with its products by 2020 and tea bags are a significant part.

Unilever’s research shows that more than 4 in 10 consumers (44%) are not aware that it is possible to recycle tea bags, yet more than 8 in 10 (82%) might or would consider recycling them if they knew how to go about it, showing the real need for widespread awareness raising2. However, the fact that the infrastructure for dealing with waste varies considerably across the UK presents a challenge in tackling the issue, particularly for consumers who are motivated to recycle but do not have access either to food waste collection or a garden where they can compost. Unilever supports the need for a more unified waste collection system as, with improved recycling facilities, we can play our part through brand communications in encouraging consumers to use them.

Antonia Bird, Brand Building Director – Tea at Unilever UK & Ireland said, “Living sustainably needn’t mean making big changes; small and simple daily actions can make a big difference and that is what we’re hoping to show through our partnership with Recyclebank.

“The everyday actions we take can amount to a big sustainability impact, so as a nation of tea lovers, simply by disposing of our tea bags in food waste collections or on the compost, rather than sending them to landfill is a great way for us all to play our part.”

Rob Crumbie, Marketing Director, Recyclebank said, “There’s absolutely no denying we Brits love a cuppa. Now we can enjoy that brew even more, knowing that we’re not contributing to landfill and instead we’re giving the teabags a new home on the compost heap -or in our food waste recycling. We’re delighted to be partnering with Unilver again in support of raising awareness about the journey from cup to compost.”

This is not the first time that Unilever has partnered with Recyclebank. In the USA, Unilever ran several successful awareness raising campaigns on the site in 2012 with Dove (recycling in the bathroom), Hellmann’s (sustainable summer meals), Suave (turning off the tap) and Lipton (how greener production can help forests).

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Notes to editors

1Communications on posters and in local newspapers, featuring PG tips and the iconic “Monkey” character, prompted residents to dispose of their used tea bags in their new kerbside collection to reduce waste to landfill. Awareness was high, with over 60% of respondents indicating they would be more likely to participate in their food waste recycling schemes as a result of the campaign. Unilever is now exploring to see if the approach could be scaled up to work with other councils in the UK.

2A qualitative discussion was undertaken with 91 consumers on the “At Home with Unilever Community Panel” to explore attitudes and behaviours around making use of leftover food and recycling teabags. This is an online, moderated, interactive discussion, following a discussion guide containing open ended questions, which allows members to respond in their own time by adding their own answers and contribute to the views of others. The moderator prompts and encourages additional response to a specific set of research objectives throughout. Participants were a mix of age, gender and socio-economic group.

Polls were used alongside the discussion to provide basic quantitative information to complement the qualitative element of the research. The polls covered knowledge of tea bag recycling (n = 311) and consideration of tea bag recycling (n = 281).

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