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Plastic is the word on everyone’s lips this year. It seems that everywhere you look at the moment someone is talking about plastic and the damage it is doing to our planet.
What a lot of people don’t know is that there is plastic in everyday items that you wouldn’t know about. Tea is a good example of this.
84% of Brits drink tea every day and according to the UK Tea and Infusions Association, 165 million cups of tea are consumed every day in the UK alone. 96% of that tea is made from teabags.
Why Is There Plastic in Your Tea?
The plastic in your tea bags is called polypropylene, it’s a sealant which helps the bags hold their shape and seals them shut. It’s also used to make drinking straws and bottle caps.
Why Is Plastic in Your Tea Bad?
The amount in tea bags is small but if you consider the 60.2 billion cups that are brewed each year in the UK that is a lot of polypropylene waste ending up in our seas and landfill.
Tea bags with plastic in are not biodegradable or compostable.
Which Tea Bags Don’t Have Plastic in Them
It can be very hard to find tea bags without plastic here in them in the UK. I’ve put together a selection of companies that I have found that don’t put plastic in their tea bags…
Teapigs temple teabags and the string attached is made from cornstarch. Everything is sealed with heat, not glue. Which means their tea temples are fully biodegradable.
‘You’ll be very pleased to hear that our tea temples have NEVER contained plastic.’ Teapigs Website
My concern with Teapigs teabags was that although their tea bags don’t contain plastic they are packaged in a plastic bag. I was wrong! The clear inner bag is made from Natureflex which is renewable wood pulp. It is fully compostable.
Is worth mentioning that Teapigs has only just started using this new material so some of their older packets may still be made from polypropylene which can be recycled but not composted.
Pukka have developed a genius way to seal their teabags without plastic, they stitch them. The teabags are stitched at the top using a certified organic cotton string.
The result is teabags which are compostable and 100% biodegradable.
‘As a certified organic company, all our herbs and packaging (including the tea bag) are GM-free and our teabags don’t contain any form of plastic and are fully compostable.’ Pukka Website
Each tea bag is individually wrapped in an envelope (for freshness) and by the end of 2018, all of their teas will be produced in recyclable polypropylene-free envelopes. Although this sachet will still contain a thin coating of plastic it can be put in your paper recycling bin.
Co-Op recently announced plans to stop using the plastic strip that seals their own-brand tea bags. They plan to get the bags out later on in the year (2018). Here’s a quote from their website…
Jo Whitfield, CEO, Co-op Food, said: “Many tea drinkers are blissfully unaware that the teabag from their daily cuppa is sealed using plastic. Even though it’s a relatively small amount, when you consider the six billion cups of tea that are brewed up every year in the UK, we are looking at around 150 tonnes of polypropylene – that’s an enormous amount of accumulated plastic waste that is either contaminating food waste compost collections or simply going to landfill.
“A cup of tea is part of our national psyche, so we felt it was imperative that we fix the problem as soon as possible. We’re absolutely committed to reducing plastic in our packaging and want to ensure that tea lovers can enjoy a guilt-free brew.”
Waitrose also sells plastic free teas in their Duchy range. Here’s what they had to say when I got in touch with them…
‘The majority of standard teabags contain a low level of plastic polymer to heat seal the teabags. Our Duchy teabags do not contain this, as they are not heat sealed and we also sell a wide variety of loose leaf teas. We are working with the tea industry to develop new materials to remove the necessity of using plastic-based glues and will be championing this as a material when available.’
‘The material used in Twinnings pyramid teabag range is fully biodegradable and compostable, and these teabags don’t contain any plastic.’
The packaging they currently use does contain plastic to keep the bags fresh but they are working with their suppliers to find suitable sustainable alternatives. They also have a range of loose leaf tea which is packaged in tin caddies for an alternative plastic free and recyclable option.
So What’s The Answer?
Either buy your teabags from a company that you know sell plastic free teabags, like the companies above or switch to loose leaf tea.
Related post: 10 Uses for Leftover Green Tea Leaves
If you have a favourite type of tea and you don’t want to switch why not contact the company and ask if they have any future plans to make their tea bags plastic free?