The UK Co-op has reportedly launched an array of plastic-free teabags three years after it pledged to roll out an eco-friendly version of the country’s favorite beverage. As per sources, it was unlikely that mass-produced teabags would be targeted in the fight against the global plastic binge until it was noticed that the market-wide sealant, which helps in retaining the shape of the teabags, was composed of polypropylene, and non-biodegradable.

In 2020, tea drinkers were urged to stop using teabags containing plastic following the publication of test results in the New Scientist, according to which a single bag drops billions of microplastic particles into every cup.

To that end, a team of researchers from the Montreal-based McGill University have discovered that nearly 11.6 bn minute slivers of plastic between 5 millimeters and 100 nanometers in size can be shed by dunking a plastic teabag into a single cup at a brewing temperature of 95°C.

In January 2018, the Co-op, which sells almost 367 million teabags on an annual basis, revealed that it was in the final stages of developing a completely biodegradable paper teabag. While the new teabags were anticipated to go on sale by the end of that year, delays crept in owing to a change in supplier and a series of prototypes, not standing up to testing.

The delay in the Co-op’s plans represents challenges in the production of options that neither split nor collapse in the cup, cite sources. Prominent supermarkets and tea brands have, therefore, announced a public pledge to transition to plastic-free teabags in view of pressures from a prominent national petition but are taking longer than anticipated for making the required changes.

Commenting over the plastic issue, Greenpeace UK’s Sam Chetan-Welsh opined that plastic is everywhere - in the air we breathe, in our oceans, and the food we eat - however, scientists are only beginning to understand the health consequences of ingesting the stuff.

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