Spill the tea on plastic tea bags

Spill the tea on plastic tea bags

Recently on It Starts with Plastic Free, Phil and Corey discussed plastic in TEA BAGS. Yes, that’s right … PLASTIC in tea bags!

Believe it or not, there is much more in tea bags than just some tea leaves, which often surprises people. It is more common than you would think for tea bags to have plastic in them, which is a concern for two reasons.

Firstly, what happens to that plastic when we pour the boiling water onto it in our cup? We know that when you put hot water into plastic bottles, it creates a lot of microplastics. Similarly, when we expose plastic to sunlight, microplastics form again. So, when we pour boiling water onto the tea bag, Canadian researchers have found that some plastic tea bags release very high numbers of microplastics into the water. When dosed with 95 degrees water, one plastic tea bag released 11.6 billion microplastics and 3/1 billion nanoplastic particles into the hot water.

If you like your tea strong and you swirl the bag around for a while, think about all of those extra microplastics that will be there in your cup! Given that there is still so much that we do not know about the health impacts of microplastics, it is a far better choice to avoid them.

That is incredible and not what we want when trying to minimise microplastics in our homes.

The second concern of plastic tea bags is their impact once we’re finished with them. Suppose we’re popping it into the organics collection when it contains plastic. That is not helping us create healthy and nutrient-dense compost for our soils.

From an environmental perspective, it isn’t the case if you think you can pop all of these tea bags in the organics bin. For ones that have plastic, even just a tiny amount, you need to rip it open and tip the tea leaves themselves into the organics. But how many people will do that?

When you’re trying to switch away from plastic, watch out because although some tea bags are made from paper, they use plastic to seal around the edges. And interestingly, the premium triangle tea bags have more plastic in them, so it seems you can charge more for the pleasure of more microplastics in your tea!

One day, Corey caught himself pondering all things ‘tea bags’ …. if you think about all the offices in the UK, this is where all the big tea drinkers are … imagine how much plastic is in those tea bags. This is unlike when you go to Asia, where they primarily use tea leaves. Far less plastic there!

We have found two plastic free tea bag brands – a fellow South Australian brand called Wildfire Organic Tea and another named Nature’s Cuppa, also Australian owned and operated. Look for ‘plastic free’ on the packaging to make sure you can pop it in the compost bin at the end of it.

It may be time to go full circle and bring back the pot of tea and tea leaves. Indulge yourself in the time-honoured tradition of filling your pot, letting it steep, and then straining the tea bags to pop them straight into the garden.

Watch the full episode here.