APET/coir easyGrow Tea Bag plants have been launched by B&Q across all its stores to replace 22,500cu m of polystyrene trays used each year.
The tea bags prevent the blocks from drying out and they use a thin-wall plastic tray made of corn starch and coir. The 5sq cm blocks can be planted straight into the ground, where the packaging will decompose.
The pack count is nine, halfway between the traditional six pack and double pack of 12. Growing media is 95-99 per cent peat-free.
The price has been set at £3 for nine plants or four packs (36 plants) for £10. The equivalent six-pack price works out at £1.67 against a normal lowest for six-pack retail of £1.99.
B&Q will have 20 varieties featuring with the teabags. The sole grower is Coletta & Tyson and the RSPB has backed the move.
The chain tried a similar idea two years ago, planted in peat blocks, with six plants in waterproof cardboard trays. But it abandoned the concept because the blocks dried out in store and the cardboard trays collapsed.
B&Q sells 140 million bedding plants a year in the UK, 80 million between March and June. Packaging firm Styropack criticised the use of coir, which it said would "add a considerable negative in terms of fuel consumption". But B&Q said sustainability specialist BioRegional verified that the APET/coir mix has a lower carbon footprint than polystyrene.
"The coir we use is produced in Sri Lanka to high ethical standards that have been independently audited. We've created 750 jobs there and have been playing our part in helping to support the area with funding for a local school. There's nothing more British than a teabag, so it seems fitting that our latest innovation is inspired by our favourite beverage. With easyGrow Teabag Technology, we're able to offer our customers bedding plants that don't create added waste and make it easier to get planting just in time for the spring gardening season."
Ben Smith, bedding plants buyer, B&Q