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Unilever works with councils to promote tea bag recycling

A warming "cuppa" is the perfect thing to take the chill off the seemingly endless winter and, as a nation of tea lovers, in the UK alone we consume some 165 million cups of tea every day. As the vast majority of tea drinkers habitually pop their used wet teabags into the bin, Unilever UK has announced a new partnership with Brentwood Borough Council, Chelmsford Council and WRAP (Waste and Resource Action Programme) to change consumer habits and encourage Essex residents to recycle their teabags.

The campaign kicks off on 14 May with widespread advertising which will be visible on six sheet posters at bus shelters and in local newspapers, ensuring the positive message is prominent at home and while out and about. Adverts, featuring PG tips’ much-loved, iconic "Monkey", advise tea drinkers that they can dispose of their used tea bags in their kerbside food waste collection and do their bit to reduce Essex’s waste to landfill.

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 circa 370,000 tonnes of waste every year.

As the biggest tea company in the world, Unilever understands its responsibility to encourage recycling – Britons drink more than 20 million cups of PG tips a day. This campaign, which marks the first time that any of the parties have worked to promote tea bag recycling, supports Unilever’s commitment to reduce waste to landfill by 50 per cent within the next eight years, as detailed in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Paul Sherratt, Global Packaging and Sustainability Director – Beverages at Unilever said, "To achieve the ambitious time-bound goals we’ve set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we need to collaborate with organisations such as WRAP and forward-thinking councils such as Brentwood and Chelmsford in order to encourage consumers to recycle wherever they can. Only through such partnerships can we really begin to tackle such challenges.

"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. 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."

Marcus Gover, Director of the Closed Loop Economy at WRAP said, "With 52% of local authorities now offering food waste collections, we encourage people to recycle as much of their food waste as possible. WRAP welcomes Unilever’s initiative with Chelmsford and Brentwood as it demonstrates a real commitment to take responsibility for the whole life of their product. We need to see more of this kind of initiative."

Cllr Janette Potter, Chelmsford Council’s Cabinet Member for Waste Management and Recycling, said, "The Council is committed to reducing waste and putting infrastructure in place for sustainable living. This goal is shared by Unilever, and 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: in November 2011, Unilever established a partnership with Torbay Council in which it supported a new mixed plastics recycling initiative, enabling and encouraging Torbay’s 60,000 households to recycle used ice cream and spreads tubs and noodle pots.

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