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Is There Plastic in Tea?

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Is There Plastic in Tea?

First and foremost, what could be better than a decent cup of tea? Even the sound of the phrase is soothing and reassuring, like a hug when you really need it. The first thing I drink in the morning is a scorching hot tea mug, and one of the final things I do at night is usually a herbal tea. I calculate my days based on my tea consumption – a good day if I had lots of cups, and a bad day if the tea was sparse. In a nutshell, tea is my favorite beverage.

What if your prized teacup conceals a sinister secret? Okay, I’m afraid I’m the monstrous monster; much like the animal fat in the £5 controversy, your seemingly harmless cup of tea has a dark side, and that dark side is plastic.Not only is there plastic on the box and in some tea bags, but there is also plastic in the teabag itself.
Allow that to sink in for a moment: the tea bag is made of plastic.

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Perhaps you’re perplexed as to why plastic is required in teabags. Plastic (specifically, polypropylene) is added to the paper teabags during production to assist heat seal them and prevent them from opening in the package or cup. However, this implies that these tea bags aren’t 100 percent biodegradable, which is a worry because composting tea bags leaves particles of microplastic in the soil.
I wanted to acquire an up-to-date tea business overview in 2018 because so much information is from 2010. I put on my detective hat and called a few of the main tea companies to see if they could confirm that polypropylene is still used in their tea bags and to find out which tea bags are plastic-free. Here’s what they have to say:

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Teapigs initially responded (within minutes) to inform me that none of their tea bags contain polypropylene. Instead, their tea bags are manufactured from Soilon, a maize starch by-product.
Because Soilon is a bioplastic, these teabags are not suitable for recycling at home (they require high temperatures to compost), therefore your local authorities may simply dispose of them in your food waste bin. They won’t biodegrade in a home compost system or a landfill, so be careful how you dispose of them.

Bioplastics manufactured from maize – this article is a good place to start, but the important aspect to remember is that they are also made from GM crops.
The clear inside bag was formerly made of polypropylene, but Teapigs claims that their teas are now wrapped in Natureflex, a totally biodegradable wood pulp material that may be composted at home or at a local food waste bin.

“We can confirm that we are working with our teabag paper supplier to produce a 100 percent plant-based paper, however right now our tea bags contain polypropylene as one of the fibers,” says Taylors of Harrogate (who also manufacture Yorkshire Tea and Betty’s Tea).
Twinings sells a variety of unusual tea bags. “Our normal tea bags, which are used for Earl Grey and English Breakfast, to mention a few, as well as many of our infusions and organic teas, are manufactured from natural plant-based cellulose material and do not include plastic in the fibres,” they say. However, because these teabags are “heat-sealed,” the paper frequently has a very thin polypropylene layer, which allows the two layers of tea bags to be contained together.
A thin coating of plastic polyethylene is used to seal the tea bags in their ‘string and sachet’ teabags. One Twinings product that does not include plastic is their pyramid tea bag series, which is made from maize starch and is completely eco-friendly. However, instead of tubes, most of their pyramid tea bags appear to arrive in plastic bags.

The pyramid teabags from PG Tips are likewise composed entirely of recycled, biodegradable plant-based material. This bag, like Teapigs, is made of maize-based bioplastic.
These should be deposited in your local food waste container, not your home composter or trash bin.

I haven’t gotten a chance to sample the pyramid tea bags yet, but all PG Tips tea bags I’ve had in the past look to be covered in plastic, therefore I’d want to know if the package is wrapped in plastic as well.
The Unilever-owned firm also claims that by the end of the year, all of its teabags will be made entirely of plant-based materials. They told me through email in June 2017 that their basic model tea bags are manufactured with 80% paper fiber and are entirely biodegradable, along with the tea leaves within. There is a tiny bit of plastic in the residual packaging that isn’t fully biodegradable: it’s necessary to make a seal to keep the tea leaves within the container.“
“Today, the filter paper in our pillow tea bags contains polypropylene for heat-sealing function,” Clipper said on Twitter, adding that they utilize plastic in their teabags, including in their unbleached organic tea bags. “Square “pillow” bags include a very thin layer of polypropylene plastic to allow the bags to be secured, however this can break down into small bits in your compost bin,” according to their FAQ from June 2017, which they have subsequently changed.
“We collaborated with our packaging suppliers to develop a viable alternative to polypropylene in tea bags,” Clipper said in January 2018. We completed one manufacturing trial to evaluate an alternate option and have another scheduled for February [2018]. As a brand, we value being plastic-free, and we’re working hard to ensure that we can do it as swiftly as possible while maintaining our tea’s excellent quality,” so look for plastic-free Clipper tea in the near future.

So, what are your options?

cup of tea
Inquire with the tea manufacturers through email or Twitter if they have ceased using plastic in their teabags, and if not, when they will. Businesses will notice if a large number of individuals do this.

You may also sign petitions on the internet.

tea bag
If your favorite tea brand isn’t on this list, try contacting or tweeting them to find out where their teabags stand on plastic – you can leave your responses in the comments below.

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